Southern Utah University students now have direct access to mental health support through their Canvas portal, which highlights resources from the SUU Care and Support Team.
In a meeting in October with Provost Jon Anderson, SUU junior and senator for the College of Education and Human Development Madi Fristrup recognized the need for better marketing of CAST – a group of trained SUU faculty and staff who listen to and provide support for students struggling with their mental health.
During the meeting, several other senators voiced their opinions as well, recognizing that if CAST were more well-known and accessible, they would be personally utilizing it.
After learning about these concerns, Fristrup brought the issue up at one of the weekly senate meetings, which consists of the Executive Council and the senators for each college. Although Fristrup’s intention for the meeting was to “brainstorm” ideas to better market CAST, the senate made a list of possible ways to make the resource more accessible.
Fristrup presented the list to Jayci Hacker, who serves as the director of the honors program and was one of the founding members of CAST when it was created five years ago. According to Firstrup, Hacker and a few of her colleagues were very intrigued by the idea of creating a Canvas module with all of CAST’s information, readily available for any SUU student.
Fristrup sat back as the team “took the idea and ran with it.” Within weeks, the module was created and made available for students with the help of Hacker, Associate Provost Johnny MacLean and the Online Teaching and Learning staff. On Thursday, Nov. 19, the module went live.
“The main goal of the module is to provide resources for mental health and wellness to our SUU community. With COVID-19, we haven’t had the opportunity to offer any CAST training this semester and we hope the module can fill that gap,” Hacker said. “Additionally, we hope the CAST module will help our SUU community members know that they aren’t alone in facing the unique challenges this semester has created.”
Currently, the CAST Wellbeing Resources module appears as any other regular class on students’ Canvas feed. It contains a directory of the faculty and staff that are currently trained through CAST, as well as information about the Counseling and Psychological Services Mental Health Support Peers and the Health and Wellness Center.
The module also contains links and information about campus resources such as Title IX and information about where to get help and how to listen and support other survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
Additionally, students can find the CAPS COVID Survival Guide, which provides information about dealing with stress, anxiety and depression during the global pandemic.
Firstrup attributes the creation of the module to Hacker and other SUU staff, as well as the senate who approved and supported the idea.
“I think what kind of blew me away with the senate is just how much we are so focused on the students. Always keep in mind that we are here for you. We’re just like you guys, we go through these things. You can come talk to us,” Fristrup said.
For faculty and staff who are interested in becoming trained through CAST, Hacker says new training will begin next semester via Zoom. More information about that will be released in January.
Fristrup admits that the Canvas module won’t be able to fix every student’s concerns, but she hopes that it’s a good start and change to the university.
“I hope that it helps them in little times of need. We all struggle, and those struggles can be turned into something great. My hope is just that every student gets the help that they need,” Fristrup concluded.
Story and Photo by Amanda Walton