A Message to the Penn Community Addressing Student Mental Health Issues

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Media Contact:Ron Ozio | ozio@upenn.edu | February 6, 2014

From

Amy Gutmann, President
Vincent Price, Provost
Craig Carnaroli, Executive Vice President

Nothing is of more paramount concern at Penn than the health, safety and well-being of our students.  As a follow-up to our recent message to the Penn community regarding student mental health, we are writing to inform you of recent steps that we have taken to support the mental health of our students, and outline additional steps that will be occurring to ensure that we are doing everything possible to reach and assist students in distress.

Everyone at Penn is terribly saddened by our recent student deaths.  Members of our community are grieving these losses.  As a consequence, our support service groups, including the College House System, Weingarten Learning Resources Center, the Office of the Chaplain, and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), need additional support.  While all evidence indicates that the recent student deaths are unrelated to each other, and certainly unrelated to the work done at CAPS, we know that the needs of the community are placing greater than ever demand on our valuable student support teams.

As a result, we are taking immediate steps to expand our mental health efforts and to ensure that we are doing everything possible to reach and support students in distress.

Over the past eight years, we have grown the senior staff at CAPS, including psychologists and psychiatrists, by over 10 FTE.  Total clinical staff has increased from under 25 to more than 37 FTE over this same period.  In recent months we have expanded group therapy, which has proven to be attractive to many students.

Effective immediately, we have approved the hiring of three new permanent clinical staff in CAPS.  As it will take some time to recruit and fill these positions, in the interim, we will hire three additional temporary clinical staff.  We will also realign scheduling of current staff to allow for more flexible scheduling of appointments at CAPS.  This will permit CAPS to extend their hours and make evening and weekend appointments available.  The additional temporary staffing is needed to make this happen quickly.

It is important for everyone in the Penn community to look out for each other.  This is a unique University with a special sense of being an extended family.  We will expand our institutional efforts to support mental health needs.  We feel a deep sense of grief for the recent losses.  Let us also be sure that we are all doing everything we can to assist those in need and do our very best to keep all Penn students safe and well.