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MSU students advocate for more mental health resources
Free Press - 9/23/2022
Sep. 23—MANKATO — The students of Minnesota State University are advocating for more mental health resources on campus, especially after the toll the pandemic took on their mental health the past couple of years.
Student Government President Emma Zellmer said that it's an absolute priority to student government this year as it continues to push to achieve all it proposed last year.
Zellmer, who is new to the role this semester, plans to carry on the projects of her predecessor. She noted that a few things have already been accomplished.
One being the Gold Folder Program, a digital compilation of all the resources available on campus, including mental health counseling, COVID-19 resources, food pantry location and hours, along with non-emergency resources.
It can be found on MSU's website and is located on the home screen of every university-owned device, such as all library computers and all faculty computers.
The resources included within the Gold Folder have always been available to students, but by making it all just one click away, it has become more accessible.
"The proposal also asked for an improved student wellness website," Zellmer said. "The website does look like it has a lot of the things students might need now and is continuously being updated with the Gold Folder."
Student government not only wanted to make the resources better known to students through the Gold Folder and the LifeHelp website, but they also proposed to add more.
"The proposal called for adding a full-time Student Wellness Case Navigator who would act almost like a social worker," Zellmer said.
"They would be hired to help students navigate where they need to go and help students who need access to medical care, psychiatric care, and other wellness issues in the Mankato community."
The university has since hired a Ph.D. student to work part-time in order to fill the proposed role.
"Their main goal this year is to see what the program should look like and set up a position," Zellmer said about the one hired. "We will continue to advocate for administration to make this a full-time position."
Student government also pushed to add a physical student wellness center on campus but the space has yet to be created.
"It seems like it would be difficult to find a space," Zellmer said. "All of our resources are spread throughout campus. It would be very nice to centralize them, however, we have been running into the issue of where that space would be and how we're going to relocate all of the programs. We're still working towards it, but it doesn't seem like it will come in the near future."
While a physical center will take time to come, student government hopes that the hiring of more diverse mental health counselors in order to accurately represent the student body happens sooner rather than later.
"We don't have a lot of diversity in our counseling centers," Zellmer said. "We want to make sure that our students are able to meet with someone who they can relate to and better understand their experiences."
Later this year, student government also plans to organize a time for MSU students to head up to the state Capitol and advocate for more support and funding from state leaders regarding mental health resources for students.
"We know this is an issue that needs to be addressed," Zellmer said, eager to bring awareness to those in higher positions.
David Jones, vice president of Student Affairs at MSU, agrees.
"MSU has a history of meeting the health and well-being needs of our students," he said. "We believe these steps will continue to support students so they can stay on their academic pathway toward a degree."
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