University of Arkansas Expands Mental Health Services, Renovates Health Center

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — The University of Arkansas is focusing its efforts on expanding mental health care.

With the growing number of students seeking mental health care and limited office space at the Pat Walker Health Center, it was time to expand.

“We’re trying to be more accessible. That’s what it’s all about,” Josette Cline, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) said. “On average counseling services —  the demand for them is up about 30 percent, while enrollment nationally is up about 5 percent, and the numbers for UA map onto that really well.”

The completed renovation project re-organized the building and added three new academic classrooms, mental health areas, and a new waiting area.

“People are just more willing to come forward. I find that with this generation that they are more willing to come forward and say, I’m struggling with something and I’d like to talk about that,” Cline said.

A relaxation room funded by the family of a University of Arkansas student who died by suicide in 2016 was also recently finished.

“Students can come and go to the room and meditate, get away from all the cacophony, and do things for themselves by what they need in the room,” Executive Director Mary Alice Serafini said.

Mental health clinic visits at UA have increased by almost 30 percent over the past four years.

Cline says the number one reason people come in is for anxiety.

“One of the things that we do is we have group therapy, workshops/group therapy where it basically teaches tools for how to manage anxiety.”

To meet the demand, the number of staff has increased to 70 people, including 16 certified mental health clinicians.

Counselors are also now in resident halls.

Ultimately, it’s about pairing wellness initiatives with mental health needs.

“It’s become a very lively place, but also a place where people know they can trust us to  address their personal needs, whether it be medical, mental health, whatever that is we’re here for them,” Serafini said.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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