16:26 PM

Grant allows Counseling Services to customize mental health program for struggling students


Counseling Services at University of Houston-Clear Lake has been selected to receive a grant to expand their outreach programs to students, faculty and staff on recognizing the signs of mental health issues, connecting to resources, preventing poor mental health outcomes, and most importantly, ensuring student retention and success.

The Student Success Acceleration Program Implementation Grant, in the amount of $132,695, will fund a proposal that aims to create a research-based program that ultimately supports students’ persistence in remaining enrolled in college until completion.

Counseling Services Executive Director Cindy Cook said that one area that supports students’ persistence to completion is mental health. “We have proposed to design our own version of mental health awareness training,” she said.

 “With this grant, we are going to design a program specifically for our own campus,” she said. “This goes along with our belief that when students come to receive services in our office, they say it helps them remain in school. That means, for students who come to therapy, the retention rate is higher.”

Cook said that for the past four years, UHCL Counseling Services and the College of Education have been providing Mental Health First Aid training to students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the community, through a Mental Health Awareness Training grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. After training over 1,200 people, the grant ended.

“This grant allows us to customize the content and address the specific populations at UHCL,” she said. “Developing a more targeted program in a shorter format with local data and resources will ensure sustainability and allow us to have a broader impact on student mental health.”

The program would allow mental health professionals in Counseling Services to reach students through regular classes lasting 2-3 hours.

The previous Mental Health First Air program satisfied the Texas Education Agency’s requirement for all teacher candidates to have a mental health awareness training. “It’s our goal to ensure this program will meet that requirement as well,” she said.  

“It’s our hope to get more faculty and staff involved,” she said. “They are the ones to recognize students who are struggling in classrooms. It would be free to participants. The grant covers the cost of us developing the program, which would include videos highlighting what to look for and how to intervene.”

Additionally, Cook said the grant provided funding for gun locks and pill bottle locks that can be available to students to add one more layer of suicide prevention.

“For students who are suicidal, these can slow down what might be an impulse action,” she said. “If a student’s suicide plan is to take pills, then the pill bottle lock could slow them down long enough to help them think about what they’re doing.”

Creating and implementing the program makes her feel hopeful, Cook said.

“We are not the first person who notices someone struggling. It will be a professor, a classmate, or someone else. Most people go to therapy because someone else suggested it. We are hoping to build a campus culture where there is no stigma around receiving counseling services,” she said.

A multi-disciplinary team of mental health professionals, faculty, marketing and design professionals and researchers will produce this curriculum by summer 2023 and implement the early stages of the training by fall 2023.

For more information about UHCL's Counseling Services, go online.