Community wellness and mental health

May 20, 2020

With commencement festivities complete and another academic year concluded, much of our attention at the University of Michigan now shifts to the upcoming fall term and ensuring we are prepared to help our students be successful and feel supported.

In recent years, that has meant doing more to meet the growing demand for mental health services on our campus, as U-M and universities across the country respond to the increasingly prevalent mental health needs of students.

The Healthy Minds Study, an annual student mental health survey administered to students at hundreds of college campuses including U-M, illustrates the challenges our students face. In the study’s latest report, more than 40 percent of students reported experiencing depression, including one in five who described it as “major depression.” More than a third of respondents reported struggling with anxiety, while 12 percent reported dealing with an eating disorder.

Perhaps most alarming, more than 14 percent of students surveyed last fall reported experiencing suicidal ideation. That is nearly double what the same survey found a decade ago.

Our young people are struggling. In the next month, we will share more about how our budget priorities for the upcoming year align with our commitment to student wellness and mental health. Here are just a few ways that U-M is already working to support them:

  • Dr. Lindsey Mortenson was recently named the University’s first chief mental health officer. In this role, she is helping to implement recommendations made by our Student Mental Health Innovative Approaches Review Committee and serving as a liaison to Michigan Medicine and community mental health resources.
  • U-M has adopted the Okanagan Charter and joined the United States Health Promoting Campuses Network, a cohort of seven U.S. universities committed to becoming health-promoting institutions. The charter calls on post-secondary schools to embed health, including mental health, into all aspects of campus culture.
  • On the research side, the Eisenberg Family Depression Center is one example of how we draw upon the extraordinary range of expertise at the University to address a challenge – in this case, how depression and bipolar illnesses are understood and treated. The center is the first of its kind devoted entirely to bringing depression into the mainstream of medical research, translational care, education, and public policy.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but the University’s commitment to health and well-being is perpetual.

Mary Sue Coleman, PhD

(Lead image: Michigan Photography.)


  1. Nancy Creason - 1977

    I am inclined to just add amen. College students, all not just those in their late teens, have struggled for years with mental health issues especially depression yet services were sorely lacking and many faculty were clearly unaware of their impact on student mental health. That said, the mental health effort needs to be extended to helping faculty be more sensitive, not that they provide care but that they care enough about student’s well being to manage their faculty duties in a caring manner.


    • Lisa Fetman - 2007

      Absolutely! And to add onto this, I do hope that there will be equal supports and services offered to faculty and staff. The pandemic has been hard on college faculty worldwide, with many either leaving or considering leaving the profession. Plus, faculty and staff mental health has a trickle-down effect on students, so this should be a campus-wide initiative (if it is not already–I understand this piece is specifically addressing student experiences).


  2. James Cowart - 1972

    Students need access to evidence-based mental health treatments for anxiety, depression and eating disorders, such as Cognitive-behavioral Therapy. Medication alone is not nearly enough.


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