Strategic Advances in Mental Health Services

Roxana Samaniego, PH.D., Director of Clinical and Wellness Services

College mental health is an ever-changing field that continually evolves in response to trends in university settings. Over the years, the SALT Center’s Psychological Services team has filled a unique role providing mental health support to help students enrolled in our program overcome challenges and fulfill their academic ambitions. We have frequently collaborated with the support staff to quickly identify and implement needed resources and engage in problem-solving.

This year, however, all college support professionals have had to adapt even more quickly, respond to new stressors never encountered before, and provide effective services to students in a new virtual space. At the SALT Center, we saw a need to devote more resources and respond in innovative ways. To meet the needs in this changing landscape, our department was expanded to Psychological Services and Wellness at the SALT Center. Our leadership team acted swiftly, and I am excited to report that my role as Director of Clinical services was expanded to oversee both Psychological and Wellness teams and to devote more time to building both high-quality mental health care and broader wellness programming.

The multidisciplinary Wellness team was created for the purpose of engaging and informing students about dimensions of wellness through small and impactful messaging. The team focuses on integrating university wellness initiatives with local programming and adapting it to suit the needs of our students. While there are many dimensions of wellness, our team focuses on academic, emotional, and interpersonal wellbeing. This includes building resilience, accessing university resources, formulating a selfcare plan, and empowering people to seek help. Additional educational groups were created to help students learn to thrive in a world where so many elements are beyond their control. We engage students with social media, groups, oneon-one meetings, and providing relevant information to the Student Support Specialists so they can support their students more effectively. Our virtual workspace has also allowed for greater collaboration across the campus, which has produced additional resources for our students. We recognize that staff health is vital to the ongoing work of the SALT Center, and we have implemented programming to address staff wellness as well.

The Psychological Services team has also adapted to provide increased flexibility and accessibility for our students. Telehealth (aka telepsychology), though at the forefront of service delivery for some time, was not frequently used prior to last spring. With this opportunity to transform our services, we transitioned to a completely online secure platform with virtually no interruption. We took up the challenge to increase our skills in telehealth, and I am happy to report we can provide secure, effective psychological care for students. Our data show that students are accessing our virtual services more frequently than ever before, and we plan to continue to have telehealth as an ongoing option for any student who may prefer or require it.

Despite our distance, we have strengthened our commitment to supporting students through these stressful times. We know that there may be unanticipated challenges ahead, but we will constantly strive to implement creative and effective solutions with an eye to empowering our students through education and quality care. We are honored to work with so many students who display incredible resilience, and to be on a small part of their journey.

“As a Student Support Specialist, having the psychological services available to our students at the SALT Center has been an enormous asset that is hard to put into words. This service is essential given the stressful environment these students are operating in and I am very grateful for this support, and I know many students are as well.”