While most people may think of individual or group counseling when they think of the University Counseling Service (UCS), direct clinical service is only part of a comprehensive response to campus mental health. In addition to direct service, UCS engages in outreach and consultation on both a small and large scale. Outreach and consultation are viewed as valuable preventative modalities of treatment and can be a way to connect with students who might not otherwise seek a westernized model of mental health services, especially those from marginalized or underrepresented groups. Outreach also provides opportunities for collaboration between UCS and other organizations, divisions, and student groups across campus.
One of the biggest events of the year is Fresh Check Day. Fresh Check Day is unique from more traditional programs around mental health in that it combines a fun, fair-like atmosphere with constructive conversation around mental health and wellness and suicide prevention. It also helps students get connected with important campus resources. It is held in Hubbard Park where various interactive booths are combined with music, games, prizes, food, and other giveaways. Some of the main goals are to help students understand that they are not alone in what they may be struggling with, that the University of Iowa cares about their mental health, and that there are resources available to help. This upcoming year, Fresh Check Day is set for Wednesday, October 16th, 2019, from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. It is free and open to everyone.
Let’s Talk Hawks is another outreach effort that helps students get connected to therapists from UCS in a free, informal (does not require an appointment), and completely confidential way. Therapists hold drop-in hours at specific locations around campus and students can simply stop by. Let’s Talk Hawks is not a substitute for therapy and does not constitute mental health treatment; however, therapists listen to students’ specific concerns, help explore solutions, and introduce students to what it may be like to speak to a member of UCS’s staff, before deciding if more formal counseling is something they may want to pursue.
Some other examples of UCS outreach include: interacting with students around mental health via social media, a “de-stress” festival for student athletes during finals week, psychoeducational presentations and workshops for student organizations regarding anxiety, depression, body image, yoga (at the College of Dentistry), stress management, and diversity, equity, and inclusion, and coping with acculturative stress for international students. Because the University of Iowa has a large, diverse set of students on campus, with a variety of needs and preferred ways to access resources, it is crucial UCS engages in outreach and consultation in a variety of ways to meet students and their mental health concerns.