Mental health resources are expanding for UNM students, thanks to a new collaboration between the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) and El Centro de la Raza. The effort is called: The Mental Health Collaborative (MHC).
The alliance also includes Vassar Hall on North Campus. It’s a wide scope, but a centralized goal: to provide assistance to others. This takes the form of counselling, advocacy, assistance in accessing housing and food resources, and social work case management services.
“It’s not just the academic issues that people have,” said social worker and MHC program specialist Miquela Ortiz Upston. “Usually if there are academic issues, there are other issues going on. I really saw a need for social work on the UNM campus during my time in various positions.
Advisory services have always been offered by the WRC since its foundation 50 years ago. WRC has also been a supervision site for UNM Counseling Masters Program students completing their internship for many years.
However, after student feedback over the past year, program managers have recognized the need for long-term, consistent venues for marginalized populations to receive culturally specific services and training in the counseling profession.
“We thought, wouldn’t it be more powerful if we joined forces? We wanted to create a holistic approach. How do two student ethnic centers work together? Ivette Acevedo Weatherholtz, licensed counselor and program coordinator, said.
That’s where El Centro came in, with the help of a one-time $50,000 grant from the Department of Higher Education. which allowed the creation of a consulting space in El Centro and the appropriate equipment.
“We really hope to create a safe environment for our diverse student population that meets their needs rather than the other way around,” said Acevedo Weatherholtz.
Together, they recruited a handful of experienced graduate students, enrolled in counseling and social work programs to be the rock for these students, at all three campus locations. There are also eight separate interns providing bilingual and bicultural counseling and case management assistance.
“It’s really difficult for minority students to want to seek counseling services that don’t reflect their diversity,” Acevedo Weatherholtz said. “So we’re attracting a lot of black, Indigenous, and people of color counselors into formations that reflect that diversity.”
She added that there is also an emphasis on multiculturalism, social justice and intercultural dialogue in the professional training that interns receive through the MHC.
“It’s really good to see how we’re opening doors and spaces to see representation in the field of mental health.” – MHC Program Coordinator Ivette Acevedo Weatherholtz
As a federally designated Hispanic-serving institution, the need for bilingual, bicultural counselors and social workers on campus has become even clearer.
“Marginalized populations have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic,” said Ortiz Upston. “I think it is essential to be able to provide these services to our marginalized population.
It is also mutually beneficial, not only for those who receive help, but also for those who give it. Each qualified intern not only provides bilingual assistance, advice or social work, but also gains experience and feedback crucial to their career.
“The benefit of using students is not only that we benefit by providing services and having a greater ability to do so, but we also provide a learning site,” Ortiz Upston said.
Eventually, MHC hopes to expand collaborative partnerships so that it can offer internship opportunities to students in more fields and degrees, such as psychology.
“We hope to create an internship experience that supports our students, but also provides needed services to our student population facing issues such as racial trauma and gender-based violence, while creating safe, on-going spaces. at students,” Acevedo Weatherholtz said.
Currently, MHC listens to 50 students through counseling alone. Last spring, WRC Counseling provided over 600 clinical hours of free counseling to students and campus staff.
“We’re serving 50 students right now, but we’re serving 50 students who really, really need it,” Acevedo Weatherholtz said. “I think COVID-19 has really brought attention to mental health needs and exacerbated them.”
New graduate social work interns also provided 345 hours of service over the same period. They focused on serving those in need with SNAP, EBT, and Medicaid assistance. Others receive help applying for insurance.
“I consider it a lot of triage,” Ortiz Upston said. “It’s really about knowing when they come in, what are the services that will be useful to them in the situation they are in?”
This semester, that total has grown to more than 1,250 hours. The need, MHC leaders agree, is dire.
For those not entirely comfortable receiving help in person, there are also telehealth options, thanks in part to a one-time $30,000 grant from the Provost’s Office.
“I think what we offer is unique. It’s bilingual services and the use of students to help in that effort,” said Ortiz Upston.
While there are other great resources like Student Health and Counseling (SHAC), she says everything provided at MHC is special and not redundant to any other service on campus. This is largely because, they say, MHC services are free and therefore available to any student, whether or not they have health insurance.
“We are thrilled and appreciate all the work that has been done across campus in the area of mental health and wellness,” said El Centro Director Rosa Isela Cervantes. “We are excited to expand and contribute to the collective work to meet the needs of students and support them in their academic journey and life goals.”
As one of the confidential advocacy sites on campus with a long history of trauma mitigation in response to domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and harassment, WRC also provides counseling interns with training. specialized in responding to gender-based violence.
“Advocacy is much more urgent, something serious,” Acevedo Weatherholtz said. “Of course they need advice, but right now they just need to get through the legal stuff. They realize they have rights.
However, it still all comes down to counseling and the fundamental act of destigmatizing the mental health assistance that so many people need on campus. Coming out of the pandemic, they point out, there are many who need help but are stuck on waiting lists or without a solution to their real problem.
“Many places are at capacity, so being able to offer these resources in different areas is critical to the well-being of students at UNM,” said Ortiz Upston. “The needs we see now are different. They were great before but they are growing and they will continue to grow.
With the social work stream about halfway through its pilot year, Acevedo Weatherholtz and Ortiz Upston believe they have an established foundation for future investment in years to come.
“It’s important that we have that support, so a program like this is sustainable and sustainable, and students who need that support have it available to them,” Ortiz Upston said.
They are currently seeking other sources of funding for the long-term sustainability of this essential pilot project.
“As we work towards our mission, our mission, our goals for the future, I think in the meantime, we’re also providing a really needed and important space to de-stigmatize mental health,” Acevedo said. Weatherholtz.
You can contact the CMH directly according to your needs. These emails are different for tips and social action service. Students can also learn more about collaboration at Women’s Resource Center . Resources are also available at The Race Center.
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