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ASU recognized for commitment to student health and well-being

May 20, 2018

University one of 7 receiving Healthy Campus Award from nonprofit Active Minds

Arizona State University’s holistic approach to student health and well-being has earned the university the Healthy Campus Award, presented by Active Minds, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing awareness to and reducing the stigma around mental health issues.

In its third year, the award is presented to colleges and universities for their efforts to promote and protect the mental health, physical health and overall well-being of their students. ASU is one of seven higher education institutions to receive the award.

“This award is a wonderful recognition of the work of so many people,” said Teri Pipe, ASU’s chief well-being officer. “If we can impact a person’s health and well-being, their internal environment, it then spreads and blossoms into this expansive state of health and well-being that affects not just individuals, but groups and communities.”

ASU was recognized for the myriad resources across all campuses that support students’ physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. University Health Services, Counseling Services, Sun Devil Fitness and the Sexual Violence Awareness and Response program, among other resources, offer students support when they need it, in the way they need it. More than 50 student clubs at ASU are dedicated to health-related topics, and many others include health as a component of their mission.

“Colleges that are recognized with the Healthy Campus Award stand out because they invest in students’ physical and mental health on a comprehensive scale and for the long term,” Alison Malmon, founder and executive director of Active Minds, said in a release. “They are a model of what’s possible when a school prioritizes a holistic approach to student success through a campus culture of health, resiliency, and well-being.”

Pipe credits the university’s inclusive vision of student health to the students themselves, who in recent years have been vocal about the need for resources that address health beyond just the physical self.

“They see it much broader than physical and mental, and really extending into social, sleep, financial, sexual — every aspect of health and well-being,” said Pipe.

Notable health and wellness initiatives at ASU include same-day appointments through ASU Counseling Services; consultation assistance for parents, faculty, staff and students who have concerns about a student; a 24-hour dedicated crisis hotline; Recovery Rising, a program to support students in addiction recovery; Devils 4 Devils, a peer-education program to support students in distress; the Disability Resource Center; and many others.

“We know that healthy and well students are more likely to succeed,” said Aaron Krasnow, associate vice president of ASU Health Services and Counseling Services. “The whole point of ASU is to build the human potential of every person who joins us, and the way to do that most effectively is not only to be teaching fantastic courses, to be engaging people in research and social experiences, but also to make sure that they are healthy and happy.”

Listening to feedback and involving students in the development of student health programs has contributed to their effectiveness and impact, said Corina Tapscott, a recent ASU graduate and former sexual-violence-prevention student coordinator at ASU. In her experience, “when students provide feedback — whether positive or critical — of counseling or health services at ASU, that feedback will actually go straight to the top so they can make changes based on that feedback. They honor the knowledge of our students and their autonomy.”

Krasnow echoes the sentiment.

“Students are at the center of everything we are doing. They know better than us what they need. And so we are led by them in what works best for their health and well-being.”

Katherine Reedy

Senior Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


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Training teaches ASU students how to be caring, supportive friends

ASU students get training to learn how to spot stress, offer emotional support.
April 18, 2018

Devils 4 Devils helps peers to spot distress, ask questions and offer comfort

Stress is a natural state for college students, and talking it out with friends is a great way to cope. Over the past year, Arizona State University has been helping students learn how to become better listeners to their friends who need emotional support.

Devils 4 Devils is a unique kind of peer counseling that empowers students to confidently pay attention and react to students who are stressed or facing mental health issues. The peers learn practical skills like active listening and how to ask open-ended questions.

“The idea is that emotional well-being is all of our responsibilities. It’s not only the responsibility of the Counseling Center or the health centers,” said Aaron Krasnow, associate vice president of ASU Counseling Services and Health Services.

“People turn to each other all the time to get support. But we also recognize that sometimes we might feel unprepared to talk to friends about their emotional difficulties,” he said.

“How do you help the helpers?”

So Devils 4 Devils, which was launched about a year ago, offers four levels of training:

Video: A four-minute video on the ASU website explains the importance of emotional well-being in a college community and offers brief information about signs of distress and ways to help.

Video courtesy ASU Counseling

General helping skills: This two-hour training is open to any ASU student who is interested. Primary goals are to learn about mental health and signs of distress and to hone skills as a helper.

Leadership training: This two-and-a-half-hour session is open to student leaders in residence halls, student government, clubs, Greek life, athletics or other areas with a focus on mental health and signs of distress in individuals and in groups and ways to build and sustain emotionally healthy communities and teams.

Care Squad: A six-hour training for students who want an active role in mentoring and serving individuals and groups of students. After training, Care Squad members will provide direct service in the form of outreach training and events, drop-in support groups and workshops.

Over the past year, 612 students were trained in general helping skills, 56 student-leaders took leadership training and 73 students trained to become part of the Care Squad.

The sessions offer specific skills in how to ask someone how they’re doing in a way that creates the openness for response and how to communicate in an empathetic way.

“We also offer students ideas about what to do when you hear something that’s concerning or sad or scary. Because we all have those things in our life. And if I share my sadness with you, now you have to hold my sadness a little bit,” Krasnow said.

“And so it’s both how to ask and how to receive information. Because if you only teach someone how to ask, they’re underprepared for what to do with it.”

Krasnow said that sometimes students worry that a peer will share something that shows they’re really at risk.

“My answer is that they’re already talking to each other about their pain. But if they’re not, and someone shares that, thank goodness. Because that person can get help.

“What we don’t want is students to feel alone in their pain. What we don’t want is someone to be at risk and to think that there’s no one they can talk to.”

Preston Johnson, a graduate student at ASU, took the Care Squad training and found that students were happy to learn specific ways of responding.

“What are some ways to navigate those conversations without being charged with, ‘How do I fix this for them?’ ” he said.

“It was an in-depth look at how to be supportive rather than remediative.”

For example, when someone describes stress over an exam, don’t point out that that he or she should attend tutoring.

Advice comes from good intentions. “But the subtext can be, ‘I don’t want to experience that stress with you. I want you to be out of it,’" he said.

“An empathetic response takes vulnerability and effort. A simple response is, ‘Wow, it sounds like this class means a lot and you’re worried.’ It’s communicating, ‘It’s OK for you to feel this way in front of me.’ ”

Johnson said that Devils 4 Devils is about creating an environment where people feel supported in sharing their feelings.

“It builds on this philosophy that people in general can handle the things that come up in their own lives. What’s difficult is when you feel like, ‘I’m in this by myself.’"

Other universities offer peer counseling, but ASU is unique because the trained students are not part of Counseling Services and Devils 4 Devils is a university-wide wellness initiative, Krasnow said.

“There will never be enough professional counselors in the world for everybody who will be in pain, and nor should we think that all emotional pain should be dealt with by professional counselors,” he said. “We invest in professional counselors, and psychologists and social workers, we invest in peer-to-peer impact, we invest in online strategies and self-help, all to try and reach as many people as possible.”

Next, the individual colleges will have their own Devils 4 Devils.

“What’s the Devils 4 Devils engineering version? Or journalism version?” he said.

“By doing that we’ll adjust it even further because there will be college-culture components.”

Learn more about Devils 4 Devils and ASU Counseling Services

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News