Faculty Mental Health Ambassador Program

This is the CS Mental Health Committee Proposal for the new Faculty Mental Health Program. If you would prefer to read a typeset PDF version of this proposal, you can go here.

You can also view a typeset PDF version of our email training here or go to https://go.csmhcillinois.com/email-training.

Overview

Mental health is a growing concern amongst college students. With our faculty being an integral part of the student experience within the department, students may seek their help. We do not expect nor want faculty members to replace mental health professionals, but they can still be a source of support and help for students.

The Faculty Mental Health Ally/Ambassador Program is a set of initiatives that aims to create a greater sense of safety and support for students within the Computer Science department. We understand that mental health can often be a daunting subject to tackle, and as such, this program has a number of resources designed to increase faculty awareness about mental health as well as provide implementable initiatives to help faculty create a culture of caring that will allow students to thrive.

Motivation

The American College Health Association and Healthy Minds conducted a survey of 18,764 college students at the start of the pandemic. Here was some data collected about the long-term disruptions students experienced in their lives due to COVID-19:

  • Two-thirds of students reported their financial situation became more stressful.

  • 60% of students indicated that the pandemic has made it more difficult to access mental health care.

  • 36% of students reported moving to a new living situation as a result of the pandemic.

The Active Minds study surveyed 2,051 students in September 2020, several months into the pandemic. Their survey found the following:

  • For most respondents, stress (84.25%), anxiety (82.35%), sadness (73.23%), and depression (60.7%) have increased since the beginning of the pandemic.

Finally, the Mental Health America study surveyed 471 college students who identified as having mental health disabilities prior to the pandemic. This report was written in October 2020, and the following results were found:

  • Only 30% of students with mental health disabilities were registered for disability accommodations due to low understanding of the accommodations available - this highlights the importance of creating a compassionate mental health environment for all students, regardless of formal DRES registration.

  • Only 47% of these students said professors have been flexible with requirements during the pandemic.

Research

Over the course of a few months, our team spoke to individuals from the UIUC Counseling Center and Computer Science Undergraduate Advising Office and got feedback from over 10 faculty members within Engineering (in Computer Science and Bioengineering) and the Associate Head for Academics in Computer Science. We analyzed national research around similar faculty, allyship and ambassador training programs by renowned mental health organizations like Mental Health America, Active Minds, and the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

We examined university precedents nationwide to look for similar programs designed to provide mental health ambassador trainings and resources for faculty, staff and students in the community:

  • The University of Pennsylvania implemented a faculty mental health awareness program that consists of a seven-hour training in order to help faculty “learn the signs of distress and mental health crises that can affect college students".

  • The University of California Berkeley created a similar program for "Wellness Ambassadors’’ that allows volunteers among faculty and staff to be trained around both mental and physical wellness and promote wellness resources and programs within the student body.

  • Some universities like the University of Florida also encourage completion of the Kognito At-Risk Training specifically, creating a program for Mental Health Training Ambassadors to promote Kognito workshops at faculty and staff meetings.

  • We also found similar Mental Health Ambassador Programs at universities such as the University of Texas at Austin, the University of South Carolina, North Carolina State University, Simmons University, San José State University, and the University of Alabama.

Program Introduction

The Faculty Mental Health Ally/Ambassador Program contains five portions spread out over two semesters.

The first portion is comprised of trainings, both synchronous and asynchronous, that incorporate information about mental health allyship, disability allyship, inclusive language and communication. The next two portions: the check-in system and policy changes/wellbeing practices, are meant to be implemented in the courses. The last bit of the proposal includes the mental health syllabus statement, and community resources. Once the program is completed, faculty will be awarded an ambassador badge. Each of these sections will be explained in-depth later in the document.

Timeline

We expect the Faculty Mental Health Ambassador program to be staged in two parts over two consecutive semesters.

In the first semester, Ambassador candidates will be chosen by the CS Mental Health Committee and complete the required training programs (less than 5 hours of training). They will work on planning for the second semester in terms of how to implement the course policy and wellbeing practice suggestions into their course(s) and incorporate a check-in system and feedback form.

In the second semester, the trained Ambassador candidates will utilize ideas around policy changes/practices and dialogue, as well as the planning from the first semester in order to integrate those into ideas for their current course(s) for that semester. They will be required to promote or link the mental health resource list from this guide on their course website or syllabus as well as include the mental health syllabus statement.

After completing the second semester, the faculty members will officially be considered “Computer Science Faculty Mental Health Ambassadors” and will receive the Mental Health Ambassador badge in the Google Drive folder. This badge can be included on a website or syllabus, or physically displayed on an office door. We will also highlight the Faculty Ambassadors on our social media channels and website.

For the initial pilot of this program, we are aiming to have 5-6 Ambassador candidates for the Spring-Fall 2021 period.

Google Drive Folder

The Google Drive folder accompanying this proposal contains the following:

  • This Mental Health Ambassador Proposal

  • A Google form for faculty to complete the CSMHC email training (upon completion, this unlocks the email templates)

  • A Google form template that can be referenced or directly copied for the Check-in Form

  • A longer list of suggested Course Policies and Wellbeing Practices

  • A proposal about the Active Minds mental health Syllabus Statement

  • Flyers and graphics with mental health resources on campus for faculty to share with students

These resources will be available to faculty throughout the program and can be saved or downloaded after the program is completed as well. The link for the folder is at https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1csdgsYhcarrm_sHfXB62sGCq8n2xZCdo.

Training

Faculty training around mental health is invaluable as discussions around mental health can be especially stigmatized in communities like Engineering and Computer Science where community standards like academic rigor, stress, and heavy workloads are often intertwined with student anxiety, depression, and mental health struggles. While academics are incredibly important, faculty can teach a rigorous course while still incorporating compassion into their teaching and classroom environments. We are including a training component of our program to prepare faculty to be more knowledgeable of topics such as mental health crisis signs, disability allyship, and inclusivity and communication, especially around mental health.

The required trainings must be completed prior to the start of the second semester in the Ambassador Program time period. We do not expect them to be extremely time-consuming or challenging but they provide an important basis for integrating compassionate policies and being able to support students in the second semester.

The recommended trainings are not enforced as part of the Ambassador Program but are still invaluable trainings for those in the UIUC community and will allow faculty to become better allies for their students and peers in the department.

Our CSMHC members have completed many of both the required and recommended trainings and are always available to answer questions. Feel free to direct any questions to contact@mg.csmhcillinois.com

Required Trainings:

Name Description Time/Format Link
Kognito At-Risk Crisis Training

Offered by Counseling Center
This interactive training allows faculty to identify students who may be struggling with mental health or in a mental health crisis 30-40 minutes, asynchronous interactive simulation https://ui.kognito.co
CSMHC Email Training

**templates available afterwards
CSMHC’s custom email training helps faculty respond to emailed student concerns about mental health 20-30 minutes, asynchronous email training https://go.csmhcillinois.com/email-training
Disability Ally Training

Offered by Disability Resources & Educational Services (DRES)
This workshop allows attendees to learn about disability allyship awareness, myths/truths, accommodations 3 hours,
synchronous training
Disability Allyship | Disability Resources & Educational Services - University of Illinois

(requires prior scheduling)
Inclusive Language Training

Offered by Handshake Diversity Together
These guides create a framework for inclusive language and terminology that includes tips, phrases, concepts to incorporate as well as those to avoid 10 minutes, asynchronous reading Part 1: https://go.csmhcillinois.com/inclusive-language-1

Part 2: https://go.csmhcillinois.com/inclusive-language-2
Total Time: ~ 4 h 30

Recommended Trainings:

* indicates training requires a fee

Name Description Time/Format Link
LGBTQIA+ Ally Training

Offered by Office Of
Inclusion & Intercultural Relations (OIIR)
Being an ally on LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, etc.) issues is the process of working to develop individual attitudes, institutions, and culture in which people feel they matter. In doing so, allies also work to end bigotry and discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community. 90 minutes, synchronous training ally network and training | LGBT Resource Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

(requires prior scheduling)
Sexual Assault Survivor Ally Training

Offered by Counseling Center
This video walks you through how you can support sexual assault survivors and various resources that are available nationally and for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign community. 20 minutes, asynchronous video https://youtu.be/BKHu-AyT4pQ
Mental Health Allyship Training

Offered by Counseling Center
These are customizable requested workshops that can include topics upon request, including general mental health allyship, compassion, safer alcohol and other drug use, communication in relationships, eating disorders, intimacy, procrastination, self-confidence, stress management, study skills, test anxiety, and time management 1-2 hours, synchronous training Request An Outreach | University of Illinois Counseling Center

(requires prior scheduling)
Sexual Assault Bystander Intervention Training

Offered by WE CARE Sexual Misconduct Support, Response, and Prevention
In this interactive workshop, students will dialogue with peers in their organization about consent and sexually disrespectful behavior, understand what helps people intervene in sexually disrespectful situations, set a group norm in which sexually disrespectful behavior is recognized as a problem and active bystander behavior is promoted, and learn a variety of intervention skills. 90 minutes, synchronous training https://wecare.illinois.edu/prevention/students/icare

(requires prior scheduling)
Mental Health First Aid Training*

Offered by National Mental Health First Aid Organization
Mental Health First Aid is a course that teaches you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The training gives you the skills you need to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis.

*occasionally, this training is offered free-of-cost through the School of Social Work events
8 hours,
synchronous training
https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org

(requires prior scheduling)
Racial Justice Allies & Advocates Training

Offered by Student Affairs and Diversity & Social Justice Education
The Racial Justice Allies and Advocate training is designed to provide students, faculty, and staff with a core awareness of the structures of racism, its role in interpersonal relationships, and empower allies to elevate the voices of underrepresented populations at the University of Illinois. 3 hour,
synchronous training
In the Zone Allies and Advocates Trainings | Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

(requires prior scheduling)
Veteran Allyship Training

Offered by Veteran Student Support Services
Veteran students have different paths to college and their experiences can cause unique obstacles in their education. This training aims to educate on those differences, as well as discuss how to best assist veteran students with adjusting to the world of higher education. 1 hour,
synchronous training
In the Zone Allies and Advocates Trainings | Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

(requires prior scheduling)

Check-in System:

Overview:

Here are some basic strategies to identify students who may be at risk, check in with them, and refer or report them to further resources, if needed.

Please note that faculty and course staff are not meant to be a replacement for professional mental health services but since they are on the front lines of interacting with students, they can often be the first people to notice warning signs.

It’s important for course staff to try to be compassionate and approachable so students feel comfortable asking for help. You do not need clinical or medical experience to reach out to a student and check in with them, but you should not be diagnosing them or trying to support them in a crisis situation.

Common Warning Signs:

Here are some common warning signs to look for in students:

  • Missing classes, assignments, projects and/or exams

  • Lack of communication or responsiveness

  • Repeatedly asking for extensions and absences

  • Statements like “I’m really stressed”

Ask course staff if they have any students who they are concerned about or who have noticeable changes in absence, participations or grades.

How to Check In:

  • Be transparent that you cannot promise confidentiality as UIUC has specific mandatory reporting requirements.

  • If you cannot speak to the student yourself, delegate a TA or staff member to check in with the student.

  • If you and course staff members are uncomfortable speaking to the student, consider reaching out to one of the resources specified later in the “Resources” section of the document instead.

  • Use discretion and offer the student some privacy such as a private Zoom call or in-person office meeting.

  • Focus on discussing behaviors you have observed or noticed instead of making assumptions. Let the student know that you are concerned.

  • Use the VAR strategy (explained in the “VAR” section of the document).

  • If you are concerned a student needs professional treatment, ask the student to consider speaking to a mental health professional.

  • If you are unsure if a student is safe or potentially in a crisis, call the crisis line or emergency services. If it is during workday hours, you can contact the Student Assistance Center or Counseling Center directly.

V-A-R (Validate-Appreciate-Refer):

  • VAR can be a helpful strategy to engage in a conversation with your student.

  • Validate their experience

    • Use phrases like “That makes sense.” or “That sounds difficult.”
  • Appreciate the student’s courage in being open

    • Use phrases like “Thank you for sharing with me.”
  • Refer them to support services

General Things to Avoid:

  • Avoid judgment or personal opinion.

  • Avoid trying to diagnose the student or offer medical advice.

  • Avoid minimizing or invalidating the student or their situation.

    • Do not use phrases like “All my students feel that way”, or “It’s fine, trust me, you’ll get over it”
  • Avoid comparing the student’s situation by looking for something positive in their situation.

    • Do not say something like “Well, at least this good thing is happening”.

Check-in Form:

If you would like a way to check-in with students in larger courses, one option is to create a form for students to fill out with basic feedback and self-assessment.

This form should ideally be non-anonymized if you want to be able to reach out to individual students, but let students know that the form is not anonymous.

Ideally, the form should be 5-6 questions that are multiple choice or short-answer so students can easily fill it out. Consider also incentivizing a form with extra credit.

Some sample question ideas are:

Sample Question Answer Format/Options



How are you feeling? (In general, not only in relation to academics or this course)
Linear Scale of 1-6
6- I’m doing really great!
5- I’m doing pretty well
4- I’m doing okay
3- I’m starting to struggle
2- I’m having a really hard time
1- I need to reach out for support



How confident do you feel that you will pass this course?
Linear Scale of 1-5
5- Very confident
4-
3-
2-
1- Not confident at all
Other- Completely unsure



How confident do you feel that you will get a B or higher in this course?
Linear Scale of 1-5
5- Very confident
4-
3-
2-
1- Not confident at all
Other- Completely unsure



How supported do you feel in this course?
Linear Scale of 1-5
5- Very supported
4-
3-
2-
1- Not supported at all


Has this course been negatively affecting your mental health?
Linear Scale of 1-5
5- To a great extent
4-
3-
2-
1- Not at all
How can we help or support you? Free response/short answer question

You can also view a Google form example of this as well at https://forms.gle/kBMDP6QXUXTCLPdq8. This form is included in the Faculty Ambassador Drive folder and can be directly duplicated and modified.

Policy Changes and Wellbeing Practices:

These are course policy changes and wellbeing practices we are asking faculty to integrate into their course(s). They will be able to plan over the first semester of the program on how best to incorporate these policies before implementing them directly in the second semester.

Many of the suggestions listed on this document have been compiled from student suggestions and experiences.

In addition to this list, there is a longer list of other suggested policies and practices that can be found at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ltWsGHBye8FSGq6DaB9jnCEzHj_Q3FWESpLQ2BgCrfg/ as well as in the Google Drive folder.

Policy Changes:

  • Avoid early morning deadlines (ex. 8 AM) - this encourages students to pull all nighters

  • For virtual instruction: If lecture is asynchronous, consider making intro videos for major assignments to help students get started with the assignment

  • Offer flexible extension policies, if possible

    • Increased willingness to offer students Incomplete grading in times of crisis
    • Especially with students going through mental health emergencies
      • They likely can not provide advance notice as easily
  • Clear communication about course policies

    • Transparency and consistency with policies, especially around drop policies and other scheduling changes – visible and accessible on a website or syllabus
  • Clear communication about grading, especially in classes graded on a curve

    • For many students, college is the first time they have seen grading on a curve
    • Low grades can be a massive shock and demoralizing to students
  • Release midterm grades, if possible, or mid-semester course feedback forms

Wellbeing Practices:

  • Include DRES and Mental Health Resource Information on syllabus

    • Syllabus statement included in next section
  • Normalize needing help

    • Discuss this at the beginning of the class, and around stress points in the course (ex. difficult quizzes/exams, basically times when student morale is likely low)
  • Encourage students to access mental health services as needed

    • Faculty members can refer students directly to Advising or the Student Assistance Center/Dean of Students Office
    • Consider checking in or communicating with a student before making an external referral so they are aware why you are concerned or making a referral
  • Remind students of the importance of general wellbeing, especially sleep management

  • Consider incorporating mental wellbeing and mindfulness into course time

    • Ex. Playing a guided meditation at the end of lecture or in office hours, holding a short break in lecture for students to get up and stretch

Syllabus Statement:

We require that Faculty Mental Health Ambassadors add the following statement to their syllabus alongside the DRES statement:

Significant stress, mood changes, excessive worry, substance/alcohol misuse or interferences in eating or sleep can have an impact on academic performance, social development, and emotional wellbeing. The University of Illinois offers a variety of confidential services including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, psychiatric services, and specialized screenings which are covered through the Student Health Fee. If you or someone you know experiences any of the above mental health concerns above, it is strongly encouraged to contact or visit any of the University’s resources provided below. Getting help is a smart and courageous thing to do – for yourself and for those who care about you.

• Counseling Center (217) 333-3704

• McKinley Health Center (217) 333-2700

• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800) 273-8255

• Rosecrance Crisis Line (217) 359-4141

(available 24/7, 365 days a year)

• If you are in immediate danger, call 911

This statement would be extremely helpful in raising awareness of community resources and letting students know that their mental wellbeing and health should be a priority.

The statement was developed by Active Minds and has also been vetted and approved by the UIUC Counseling Center.

If you’d like to read more about the proposal and the reasoning behind it, you can check out the proposal at https://go.csmhcillinois.com/syllabus-statement. There will also be a copy in the Faculty Ambassador Google Drive folder.

Resources:

We recommend the following resources for referral of students who may be struggling or in-crisis:

*Faculty have been asked by the Advising Office to share concerns about any students to undergrad@cs.illinois.edu (including names and ideally netids/UINs) at any point. Advising will then reach out to the students (and their advisors if they are non-CS) and other campus resources to assist them.

We also would like faculty to promote and share the following resource guides with students as they include a more complete list of resources that are campus-wide, Engineering and LAS-specific and CS-specific, as well as allyship resources:

For concerns with faculty or staff mental health, we would recommend the following resource:

Faculty/Staff Assistance Services:

Badge:

Following the completion of the two semester Faculty Mental Health Ambassador Program, faculty members will be awarded a badge signifying that they are an official “Computer Science Faculty Mental Health Ambassadors”. This badge can be included on a website or syllabus or physically displayed on their office door. A downloadable copy of the badge will be included in the accompanying Google Drive folder.

Here is a mockup of the Computer Science Faculty Mental Health Ambassador badge:

Citations/References:

“Ally Network And Training.” LGBT Resource Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Office Of Inclusion & Intercultural Relations, oiir.illinois.edu/lgbt-resource-center/our-programs/lgbt-ally-network.

“Creating A Culture Of Caring: Faculty Resource.” Active Minds, Active Minds, Association of College and University Educators, 2020, www.activeminds.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Faculty-Resource_Creating-a-Culture-of-Caring.pdf.

Davis, Kelly A. “DISABILITY AND CAMPUS MENTAL HEALTH: What 471 Students Have to Say.” Mental Health America, Mental Health America, 30 Oct. 2020, www.mhanational.org/blog/disability-and-campus-mental-health-what-471-students-have-say.

“Disability Allyship.” Disability Resources & Educational Services, Disability Resources & Educational Services - University of Illinois, www.disability.illinois.edu/disability-allyship.

Green, Nehemiah. “70 Inclusive Language Principles That Will Make You A More Successful Recruiter (Part 1).” Medium, Diversity Together, 20 Aug. 2018, 70 Inclusive Language Principles That Will Make You A More Successful Recruiter (Part 1) | by Nehemiah Green | Diversity Together | Medium.

Green, Nehemiah. “Part 2: 70 Inclusive Language Principles That Will Make You A More Successful Recruiter.” Medium, Diversity Together, 15 Aug. 2018, Part 2: 70 Inclusive Language Principles That Will Make You A More Successful Recruiter | by Nehemiah Green | Diversity Together | Medium.

“ICARE: Sexual Assault Bystander Intervention Workshop.” ICARE, At Illinois We Care, Student Assistance Center, Office of the Dean of Students, Women’s Resources Center, Office of University Counsel, Office for Access & Equity, University of Illinois Police, wecare.illinois.edu/prevention/students/icare.

“The Impact Of Covid-19 On College Student Well-Being.” American College Health Association, American College Health Association, The Healthy Minds Network, May 2020, www.acha.org/documents/ncha/Healthy_Minds_NCHA_COVID_Survey_Report_FINAL.pdf.

“Kognito At-Risk Suicide Prevention Training.” Illinois Youth Suicide Prevention for Higher Ed Gatekeeper Training, Kognito, 2021, ui.kognito.com/.

Mental Health Ambassador Handbook, San José State University Counseling Services, 2008, www.myacpa.org/sites/default/files/MHA_Handbook.pdf.

“Mental Health Ambassador Program.” Counseling Center, North Carolina State University, Aug. 2020, counseling.dasa.ncsu.edu/workshops-and-events/mental-health-ambassador-program/.

“Mental Health Ambassadors Program.” The University Of Texas At Austin University Health Services, The University Of Texas At Austin, www.healthyhorns.utexas.edu/mental_health_ambassador.html.

“Mental Health Ambassadors.” Student Health Services, University of South Carolina, sc.edu/about/offices_and_divisions/student_health_services/wellness-prevention/get-involved/mental-health-ambassadors/index.php.

“Mental Health First Aid USA.” Mental Health First Aid, National Council for Behavioral Health, , 19 Jan. 2021, www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/.

“Mental Health Promotion Ambassadors Program.” School of Public Health, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, 2019, www.uab.edu/soph/home/academics/student-involvement/mental-health-promotion-ambassadors-program.

“Mental Health Training Ambassador.” Gator Times , University of Florida, gatortimes.ufl.edu/2020/03/02/mental-health-training-ambassador/.

“Racial Justice Allies & Advocates Training.” In the Zone Allies and Advocates Trainings, Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations, Disability Resources & Educational Services, the Office of the Dean of Students, the Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education, College of Applied Health Sciences, oiir.illinois.edu/inthezone.

“Request An Outreach.” University of Illinois Counseling Center, University of Illinois Counseling Center, www.counselingcenter.illinois.edu/request-outreach.

Schaedel, Sydney. “Faculty to Be Trained in Mental Health Awareness through University-Wide Program.” The Daily Pennsylvanian, University of Pennsylvania, 22 Mar. 2016, www.thedp.com/article/2016/03/faculty-wellness-ambassador-program.

“Student Mental Health Survey (September 2020).” Active Minds’ Student Mental Health Survey, Active Minds, Sept. 2020, Active Minds' Student Mental Health Survey - Active Minds.

“Survivor Ally Training.” YouTube, University of Illinois Counseling Center, 20 Apr. 2020, youtu.be/BKHu-AyT4pQ.

“Veteran Ally Workshop.” In the Zone Allies and Advocates Trainings, Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations, Disability Resources & Educational Services, the Office of the Dean of Students, the Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education, College of Applied Health Sciences, oiir.illinois.edu/inthezone.

Wellness Ambassador Program, Simmons University, www.simmons.edu/undergraduate/athletics-and-fitness/health-wellness-and-recreation/wellness-ambassador-program.

“Wellness Ambassadors.” University Health Services, University of California, Berkeley, uhs.berkeley.edu/facstaff/wellness/wellness-ambassadors.

Typeset Proposal


Email Training