One of the distinguishing features of a college health or wellness program is the intertwined relationship with other campus services, all working toward the goal of student success. Look for opportunities to collaborate with stakeholders around educational or training opportunities for staff and students, and involve these stakeholders when designing campus response to disease outbreaks or campus emergencies.
Close collaboration and communication creates and maintains a safety net for students and helps leverage limited campus resources. Some common key stakeholders (departments/personnel) on campus include:
- Academics/Provost Office
- Dean of Students/Judicial System
- Accessibility Services
- Title IX coordinator/EEOC
- Student Housing/Dining
- Behavioral Intervention Team
- Ethnic/Cultural Centers
- Recreational Services
- Athletic Services
- Campus Police
As the provider of health and wellness expertise on campus, ongoing communication with key stakeholders should be part of a campus-wide health/wellness and safety strategy. Campus stakeholders can often be a great source of feedback regarding the reputation and relevance of health and counseling services. Many of these organizations on campus hear about student experiences with health and wellness services and are the sources of many referrals. Consider meeting with the leadership of these stakeholders at least annually to discuss their needs, experiences, and concerns.
Importance of Health Services Leadership on Mental Health Issues
The health and wellness services leadership should be particularly sensitive to the communication around mental health issues with campus stakeholders. Mental health professionals have a significant confidentiality culture that stakeholders can sometimes interpret as secretive and obstructive. Such misunderstandings can interfere with positive collaboration. For example, a stakeholder may refer a student to counseling services and expect some form of follow up. However, counseling services will not provide follow-up information unless the student signs a release. Such a situation can make the stakeholder feel excluded from the student’s support team.
Health and counseling services leadership can facilitate communication using limited releases of information. Many students are willing to sign a release to allow a referring professor or advisor to know they are receiving the help they need without releasing any details of counselor/client visit content. Also, a talented communicator within health/wellness services can explain the guidelines and laws of patient/client privacy governing health and mental health care providers, while still maintaining a friendly, helpful, and collaborative tone.
An adequate safety net for students cannot be achieved without collaboration with other university services, and effective, sensitive communications with other stakeholders while still maintaining patient confidentiality is critical.