Virginia Commonwealth University Mental Health Organizational Infrastructure: How Separation of Student Health and Counseling Services Impacts Stigma and Quality of Care for Undergraduate Students

Emma Geisler, Mary Boyes, Honors College, Virginia Commonwealth University 701 West Grace Street, Box 843010, Richmond, VA 23284-3010

Since the psychopathology of college students has been increasing over time, the need for a system that provides counseling and psychiatric services on university campuses is valuable. Because physical and mental health are interdisciplinary, health care focused on combined treatment would be beneficial. Currently, the majority of universities organize the mental and physical health services independently. Stigma against mental health treatment remains an issue at universities as students continue to utilize treatment less, especially in the case of minority students. By exploring the organization of mental health services at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), I aimed to determine how separation of University Student Health Services and University Counseling Services (UCS) VCU stigmatizes mental health treatment. I investigated how VCU physically separates primary and behavioral health services, employs less mental health professionals, and limits sessions for counseling appointments. I also examined how students’ patterns in utilizing counseling services were impacted by sociocultural differences. Through examining these components, I sought to understand how the organizational infrastructure inadvertently upholds mind-body dualism, hindering the effectiveness of seeking and receiving care for undergraduate students. Through analyzing published articles, I found that physical distancing of mental and physical health reinforces the philosophical distancing of mental and physical care. I also determined that employing more primary care providers than behavioral health care providers and limiting the number of behavioral health appointments impacted students’ utilization of mental health treatment. I also discovered that mind-body dualism impacted minority students’ treatment, as both primary and behavioral health providers are influenced by biases, creating treatment inequity. An integrated primary and behavioral health care system at VCU would address issues of stigmatization by increasing communication between primary and behavioral health care providers and refocusing resources. Through integration, students’ utilization of mental health resources would increase, overall improving quality and equity of care.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Emma Geisler

Institution: Virginia Commonwealth University

Type: Poster

Subject: Psychology

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 11
Date/Time: Wed 3:00pm-4:00pm
Session Number: 7093