VSU Invests Major Resources to Address Student Mental Health

VSU hires full staff of licensed counselors, forms holistic health and wellness team, trains dozens of employees on mental health first aid, and holds a mental health/wellness fair and walk.

Virginia State University has incorporated a proactive approach to combatting the college student mental health crisis caused in-part by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the 2021 return to campus, VSU has improved the quality of care offered to students for the benefit of their mental health. To mitigate potentially harmful effects to VSU student population, the University has expanded psychiatric health services, offered employee mental health trainings, and restructured the University’s Health Services. 

Virginia State University has hired the University’s first fully licensed staff of five mental health counselors. In addition, VSU has hired new Health and Wellness administrators, expanded psychiatric services and tele-health services, and added new initiatives to "reach students where they are." 

“Historically, after traumatic events there has been an ‘after effect’ which results in an increase in mental health, psychiatric and social service needs,” said Dr. Cynthia Ellison, VSU Executive Director of Health and Wellness. “In preparation for this ‘after effect,’ caused by the pandemic, our administration has taken tremendous steps to be proactive for the well-being our student population. We recognize that mental health is everybody’s business.” 

Virginia State University has also successfully trained more than 70 employees on campus as Mental Health First Aid Responders. Their role is to increase awareness, intervention, and responsiveness. In addition, VSU now offers “Chatting with Counseling,” a non-traditional counseling service provided inside residence halls. The University also provides “pop-up” counseling clinics in recreational student spaces. Group treatment sessions are also being used for specific populations like student athletes and students with accommodation needs. 

To create synergy and improve the ability to meet the holistic needs of our students, VSU has also merged Student Health, the Student Accessibility Office (formerly known as Students with Disabilities) and the University Counseling Center under one administrative umbrella, now referred to as Trojan Health and Wellness (THAW). This approach to care is theoretically based upon the Ecological Model of Wellness which is endorsed by the American College Health Association and focuses on individual and community factors that shape wellness. 

“We are committed to ensuring that Greater Happens Here by sustaining an environment that is safe, healthy and conducive to providing high quality transformative experiences for our students,” said Dr. Donald E. Palm, VSU Executive Vice President and Provost. 

On April 11, 2022, Virginia State University hosted a Mental Health Awareness Walk and Fair on campus to promote proactive mental health practices among the college student and black population. CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF TODAY’S WALK.