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Monarchs THRIVE Team Receives Grant for Mental Health Promotion and Research

The problems of stress and mental health are certainly not unique to Old Dominion University students. Financial strain, career exploration, social pressures, and academic performance are just a few matters contributing to the rise in mental health concerns on university campuses nationwide.

The Center for Collegiate Mental Health 2018 Report, published annual by Pennsylvania State University, shows troubling trends in student reported stress, depression, anxiety, suicide and other concerns. Research shows that such concerns are often worse for vulnerable groups of students such as the LGBTQ+ community and active duty and veteran military students, among others.

A cross-campus collaboration beginning in the 2018-2019 academic year set out to promote mental health awareness and suicide prevention efforts at ODU. The overall program, Monarchs THRIVE, has brought together team members from ODU's School of Community and Environmental Health, Office of Counseling Services, Department of Psychology, Student Health Services, Social Sciences Research Center, Office of Educational Accessibility, Police Department, Military Connections Center, and Sexuality and Gender Alliance.

Matt Judah, project co-principal investigator and assistant professor of Psychology, noted "THRIVE is the perfect word for this campaign. We want ODU to prosper in terms of mental health and well-being."

Monarchs THRIVE is the result of the campus team's efforts of garnering a recent (SAMHSA) Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant. The overall program includes an evidence-based set of programs at ODU over a three-year period, including mental health gate-keeper trainings for faculty students and staff, free on-campus mental health and wellness screenings, stress and health workshops, clinical trainings for Office of Counseling Services and Student Health staff, and annual evaluations.

"ODU's Office of Counseling Services and Student Health are already doing incredible mental health work", said Rob Cramer, project director and associate professor in the School of Community and Environmental Health. "This grant only enhances the reach and impact of ongoing and new programming to improve the lives of the monarch community."

Monarch THRIVES establishes a campus-community taskforce. The program's team is devoted to enhancing links with key community stakeholders by promoting referrals to regional health service providers; facilitating ODU/Norfolk joint efforts in mental health training for campus and community members; and providing expert guidance for mental health and suicide prevention programming and policies.

In the coming months, members of the ODU community can expect an active on-campus and email campaign to spread the word. The messaging is simple - mentally healthy MonarchsTHRIVE, which stands for Talk about mental health, Hear friends' needs, Recognize warning signs, Invest in self-care, Value health and wellness and Enlist help from others.

The THRIVE campaign will provide free campus and community resources, online screening, and positive messaging toward the goals of increasing conversation and breaking mental health-related stigma.

"The connections made among community members, ODU staff and researchers from this grant have already resulted in additional collaborations", said Tancy Vandecar-Burdin, co-lead of the evaluation team and associate director of ODU's Social Science Research Center.

Monarchs THRIVE's main goal is enhancing the student experience at ODU.

"Taking part in this collaboration gives me hope that pooling our passions together will lead to a more healthy campus," said Nathan Hager, project graduate assistant.

For more information about Monarchs THRIVE, email Cramer at rcramer@odu.edu or Judah at mjudah@odu.edu.

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