CARE team connects students with mental health resources

Assistant Dean of Students talks with a student in her office.

Even before COVID, many college students grappled with mental health issues. Add the stress of a worldwide pandemic to the already demanding requirements of college, and the result is a concerning increase of mental health issues in college students.

Grand Valley’s CARE team, which connects referred students with resources to help assist with academic, personal or emotional difficulties, saw a total of 1,825 CARE referrals submitted in the 2021-22 school year – a 33% increase over the previous year. Top reasons for referrals included mental health, medical, personal well-being/safety and family concerns. 

The reasons for this increase are twofold, said Assistant Dean of Students Emily First.

First, as more people become aware of the CARE program, more referrals are being made. Second, the list of challenges facing students continues to grow, including increased responsibilities, a new environment, a struggle for independence, finding community, exposure to personal, local, national and world wide tragedies, financial strain and medical concerns. 

When stress from outside of the classroom impacts a student inside of the classroom, the CARE Team strives to connect students to resources on and off campus and offer holistic care through creating trusting relationships.

If someone feels concerned about the mental well-being of a student, First urges them to take action. Faculty, staff, students or others can submit CARE referrals for any students that they feel are struggling or may be exhibiting concerning behavior.

“I like to encourage people to take the time to really listen to the students' concerns, offer the student any resources you are already aware of, and then let the student know you will be filing a CARE referral. Filling out the referral will prompt a member of the CARE Team to reach out to the student to provide a safe place to process through any circumstance a student is facing and help brainstorm what resources and support are available,” First said.

Resources that are shared with students by the CARE team range from mental health support, academic support, classroom accommodation, wellness coaching, financial support and finding on-campus opportunities to get involved.

One support initiative recently created is the Dean of Students Emergency Fund. 

“This fund is in place to help assist students who are unable to meet immediate, essential expenses due to temporary hardship related to an unforeseen or emergency situation,” First said. 

In the past, the fund has been utilized to cover needs including academic supplies, medical assistance and temporary housing for homeless students.

Additional resources are available for faculty and staff, including the Faculty/Staff mental health app, QPR Training, Red Folder Training, or CARE Team training.


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