A more aligned student wellness initiative will encourage students to more actively review their personal and bystander behaviors.
A more aligned student wellness initiative will encourage students to more actively review their personal and bystander behaviors.

Well-being: the personal side of student success

By Claire Wagner, university news and communications

Miami University is more deliberately connecting care for students’ physical, mental and emotional health. The intention: help students understand and maintain the personal aspect of student success – their own well-being.

“Students may take their health for granted,” said Mike Curme, dean of students and associate vice president, student affairs. “We are providing more resources to help them maintain prime health — in multiple areas — in order to perform well in class, in activities and in life.”

Miami already has numerous programs and interventions addressing mental health, sexual and interpersonal violence, alcohol and substance misuse, bystander behavior and related areas. The move forward is to strengthen and unite them in a holistic way, for instance, training more health care providers to recognize alcohol and/or drug misuse and refer students for further assessment and possible treatment.

In addition to opportunities that students take to excel in academics, activities and leadership programs, the aligned student wellness initiative will encourage students to more actively review their personal and bystander behaviors.

Among strengthened initiatives:

  • Following requests from Miami’s Associated Student Government, Miami is hiring two additional counselors for its student counseling service to reduce wait times and offer specific counseling.
  • A psychiatric nurse practitioner has been hired at the student health service center. New space is being allocated for the added care providers and to improve and enhance the patient experience.
  • Prominent faculty with research expertise in health-related fields will assist by identifying best practices and by reviewing the Miami student experience to help identify ways to promote enhanced student well-being.
  • By early October, a student health service team will be trained in recognizing and treating substance abuse, implementing SBIRT – screening and brief interviews for referral to treatment.

Many additional plans to holistically promote student health and safety will be implemented during the next year, including better coordination and management of current resources, partnering with The Haven at College to provide outpatient substance abuse services, and integrating the strategic plans related to alcohol, sexual and interpersonal violence and mental health. Miami also plans to draw on the expertise of alumni and regional health practitioners.

“Women Helping Women applauds Miami University as it increases services to holistically promote student health and safety. Our agency knows far too well that gender-based violence is a public health epidemic and as a reality on any campus, it requires a public health approach for intervention and prevention,” said Kristin Smith Shrimplin, president and CEO of Women Helping Women. “WHW is grateful for Miami University’s leadership on this issue and for partnering with us as we provide confidential services that support, believe and empower survivors.”

Connecting resources

Jayne Brownell, vice president for student affairs, sees many opportunities for new partnerships across campus and in the community. For example, “while our counseling, health and wellness offices have long been located in the same building, we are excited to think about how these offices can work together as one team, moving from being neighbors to full collaborators on the common wellness issues that each see every day.”

Other efforts underway include:

  • Miami’s Alcohol Coordinating Committee and its active subcommittees have included partnerships with Oxford individuals and organizations to encourage an environment of legal, low-risk choices that also validates the choices of nondrinkers and responsible drinkers. Recent efforts, such as the Good Neighbor Policy and enhanced Miami-Oxford police coordination, support a safer, healthier environment for everyone.
  • Miami will continue to offer the Good Samaritan Policy to encourage students to seek medical assistance in alcohol- or drug-related emergencies without concern for arrest and disciplinary action.
  • Miami and Oxford officials attended the International Town and Gown Association conference this year and then hosted the Ohio TGA Summit for Ohio colleges and their community partners to discuss common issues and learn from each other. At both events, student wellness and its focus on reducing alcohol misuse and sexual and interpersonal violence were key topics of discussion.
  • Among indicators of mental health is a sense of belonging. Miami’s Associated Student Government is building programming around “I am Miami”  and the Code of Love and Honor, including strengthening students’ awareness of ways to show care to each other. ASG is also sponsoring a safe-use-of-alcohol program and a mental health forum this fall.
  • Because students report that alcohol is involved in the majority of incidents of sexual and interpersonal violence, reducing misuse of alcohol is a focus with double outcomes for student well-being.

“We believe Miami University’s holistic approach to student well-being creates a healthy, productive environment in which students can prosper,” said Terri Hanlon, chief operating officer at TriHealth Corporate Health. “This approach aligns with TriHealth’s own philosophy promoting health and well-being in every community – on and off campus. We are excited about our continued partnership with Miami University as well as other community partners to offer resources and services to help each student thrive and be their best.”

As Miami continues to support students for overall success, university and professional providers believe helping them maintain their personal well-being will have benefits that carry beyond their college years.