New task force begins evaluating mental health resources available to Johns Hopkins students

Members of the new Johns Hopkins University Task Force for Mental Health and Well-Being met for the first time last week to begin assessing the support programs and mental health resources available to students.

The 24-member group has been charged with ensuring that the university's programs, policies, and practices with regards to student psychological well-being meet the needs of JHU's students.

Initially, task force members will focus on gathering information—What are student experiences? What factors affect students' mental health and well-being? What are some barriers to using existing mental health services?

"We know anecdotally that students report high levels of anxiety and depression, but we do not have easily accessed, comprehensive numbers."
Daniele Fallin, task force co-chair

"There is growing awareness of the importance of mental health in maintaining general health, and recognition that the life changes and stressors of college and graduate school may be particularly vulnerable times," says Daniele Fallin, chair of the Department of Mental Health at JHU's Bloomberg School of Public Health and co-chair of the task force.

"We don't know enough about the frequency of mental illness across our campuses. We know anecdotally that students report high levels of anxiety and depression, but we do not have easily accessed, comprehensive numbers. One goal of our task force is to compile data about the frequency and types of mental health issues among our students."

Specifically, the group has been asked to:

  • Consider the environments across JHU that affect the well-being and mental health of students, including support needs related to cultural diversity and identity;
  • Evaluate the need for mental health services and the capacity for JHU services to meet current and future demand in order to identify potential gaps in service;
  • Review policies and practices designed to encourage students to seek assistance, such as leave of absence and return, and academic and support service accommodations; and
  • Evaluate efforts for increased awareness of mental health issues and educational and training opportunities to foster both resilience and early assistance.

"The goal is to make sure we hear from different voices so we have a broad understanding of the issues that are present," says task force co-chair Terry Martinez, associate vice provost and dean of student life.

The effort to better understand mental health on JHU's campuses began last fall, when members of the Student Government Association raised the issue with administrators during a dinner meeting with JHU President Ronald J. Daniels. Shortly before that meeting, the student-run News-Letter published an op-ed urging the president to take on issues of mental health.

"It is only once we have a comprehensive analysis of the Hopkins community and its impacts on mental health that the university can create and implement substantive preventative measures," the letter reads.

That conversation eventually led to the formation of the task force, which was announced last month and is expected to publish a final report before the end of the year.

Faculty members will lend expertise in fields including accessibility, psychiatry, and counseling. Staff members from Campus Safety and Security, the Johns Hopkins Student Assistance Program, University Health Services, and others will also participate. The group includes nine students, including five undergraduates.

"It's phenomenal how much student input the task force will include," says first-year student AJ Tsang, a member of the group who also participates in student government. "The task force will be actively engaged in communication with students as it works toward its goals. It won't just be a singular effort—it will be an inclusive, all-encompassing movement."

Added Maria Chroneos, a sophomore who became involved in the task force through her volunteer work with the mental health resource Active Minds: "As an academically intense institution that prides itself on our ability to contribute and care for the community through both our health care services and our diverse research, I believe it is vital for us to ensure that we are also providing the best care, support, and resources to our own members."

The members of the task force are:

  • Allison Avolio, director of residential life for Homewood Student Affairs
  • Khorey Baker, director of student life at SAIS
  • Frank Bowers, graduate student
  • Aaron Cary, undergraduate student
  • Maria Chroneos, undergraduate student
  • Norma Day-Vines, School of Education professor
  • Michael Falk, School of Engineering professor
  • Mayriam Robles Garcia, graduate student
  • Deborah Gross, School of Nursing professor
  • Clara Han,
 School of Arts and Sciences associate professor
  • Lee James, executive director of Campus Safety and Security
  • Eliizabeth Kastelic, School of Medicine assistant professor
  • Sophie Mancini, undergraduate student
  • Spyridon Marinopoulos, director of University Health Services
  • Mateen Milan, 
undergraduate student
  • Brent Mosser, 
director of Academic Support and Student Disability Services
  • Alissa Putman, director of FASAP/JHSAP
  • Tamar Rodney, 
graduate student
  • Davis Rogers,
 graduate student
  • Kyley Sommer, director of Student Affairs and disability resources coordinator for Peabody
  • Bobbie Tchopev, director of student services for Carey Business School
  • Matthew Torres,
 executive director of the Counseling Center
  • AJ Tsang,
 undergraduate student
  • Holly Wilcox, School of Medicine associate professor