Published: May 23, 2018

MSU mental health services improve as new director arrives

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Michigan State University student mental health services have seen significant changes, with more on the horizon, as a new counseling and psychiatric services director comes on board.

Mark Patishnock will start on June 1 and lead continued efforts to ramp up staffing, as well as implement additional programs to better serve students.

Patishnock comes to MSU from Augusta University in Augusta, Georgia, where he served as director and licensed psychologist in Student Counseling and Psychological Services at the school. His background also includes work at university counseling centers at Virginia Tech, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Penn State University.

“We’re excited to have Dr. Patishnock join MSU and lead improved mental health services for campus,” said MSU Interim President John Engler. “The need for strong mental health services is something I hear consistently from all parts of campus and Dr. Patishnock is coming on board to continue making improvements.”

Improving mental health services is an important part of the restructuring of health services announced by Engler in February.

Many of the changes in student health and wellness that have already taken place stem from a report commissioned through Keeling and Associates in 2016 to help create a more efficient and effective behavioral health wellness network on campus. The consulting firm was chosen because of its work with more than 200 other universities across the country to help build a seamless support network that addressed student needs and concerns.

An integral component to the new MSU behavioral network is the implementation of a fully integrated Student Support Program, which is an expansion of existing support services for international students launched last fall.

Immediate 24-hour access to counselors

Beginning June 1, all MSU students will have immediate 24-hour access to counselors through a phone app that will allow them to talk or instant message for help with any mental or emotional issues.

In addition to having a counselor at their fingertips, the downloadable student support program app, called My SSP, can connect them to other resources including access to articles about anxiety, stress and relationships.

Counseling services are provided through Morneau Shepell, a specialized benefits provider that offers health and wellness support to students at universities across the United States and Canada. These services will complement existing on-campus mental health programs.

“Morneau Shepell is widely recognized for helping institutions like MSU deliver immediate and effective wellness solutions to students that will make a difference in their everyday lives,” said Dave Weismantel, MSU university physician.

Second on-campus CAPS location

Additionally, a secondary Counseling and Psychiatric Services, or CAPS, location will open on the third floor of the MSU Student Union in September. The second location will house eight to 10 counselors, expanding capacity to reach more students each year.

“We have a number of counseling positions we are looking to fill this summer so we are ready to open our secondary location as soon as possible to students,” Weismantel said. “Bringing highly qualified individuals to fill this important role has been a priority.”

Other changes include:

  • Creating a student advisory group to help address continuous needs among the campus population.
  • Placing a licensed counselor within the graduate school, as well as working with Residential and Hospitality Services to embed counselors in three of the MSU neighborhoods.
  • Expanding group therapy and workshops, including training for academic advisers and campus groups on how to identify, understand and respond to mental health issues.
  • Incorporating data collection processes to track progress and effectiveness.
  • Ensuring mental health staff have access to multicultural- and competency-training opportunities on a regular basis.