In wake of mental health concerns, UK promises new task force

Provost David Blackwell spoke to students, faculty, and staff in Kincaid Auditorium on Friday, December 8, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Rick Childress

UK will soon create a task force to assess the current state of mental health on campus and will increase efforts to raise awareness about on-campus resources.  

UK President Eli Capilouto and Provost David Blackwell announced the task force on Friday during the UK Board of Trustees meeting. The task force will be chaired by Donna Arnett, the College of Public Health dean, and Margaret Pisacano of UK HealthCare. Other members of the task force are still being determined.

The task force will make recommendations to UK based on its findings. 

We must be vigilant, and this group of experts will be a sounding board, listening to what is happening here on campus and throughout the country,” Blackwell said. “This issue involves that which is most precious to us— our students and people throughout our campus community.” 

Blackwell said that in the short term, the university will “redouble” its efforts of informing students about UK’s on-campus resources relating to mental health. 

Related: ‘Know you are not alone.’ Capilouto addresses recent student deaths

The announcement was made during a special presentation which accompanied Friday’s Board of Trustees meetings, Capilouto and a panel of university officials who deal often with student mental health spoke on the current status of UK’s current resources and what will be done moving forward. 

The presentation came after two UK students died by suicide in two separate incidents and after a special edition of the Kentucky Kernel which focused completely on student mental health. 

VIEW: Feb. 4 edition of the Kentucky Kernel

We know this issue, we’ve had tragedy this semester, we are wounded, we are hurting,” Capilouto said during the presentation. 

Capilouto and many officials present lauded the current state of UK’s mental health resources but also said that there may be a need for increased research and resources. 

The United States as a whole has seen a marked increase in suicides over the past decade, Capilouto said. On college campuses there has also been an increase of reports of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Capilouto said that UK has been no different.

The UK Counseling Center saw an increase of 71 percent in clients served between 2010 and 2018, data shared by Capilouto during the presentation showed. UK also saw a 10 percent increase in the UK population during that time.

The Counseling Center staff increased by 64 percent during that time. 

Capilouto called the increase in reports an “epidemic in reporting” and suggested that this increase should not be alarming and should be a sign of an eroding stigma around mental reporting.