Saginaw Valley State University is responding to the growing demand for mental health services by building a new model to serve its campus community.
The incidence and prevalence of mental illness, substance use and emotional distress on college campuses have been trending up for years, and COVID-19 — with its health and economic consequences — is compounding the problem. The American Council on Education reported 68% of higher education presidents listed student mental health as among the most pressing issues in academia.
SVSU students, faculty and staff who need professional support on mental health matters will soon have a new on-campus resource to turn to.
SVSU is establishing a new Campus Mental Health & Wellness Center, and have hired the center’s first director, Margaret (Margie) Bach.
James G. Muladore, SVSU executive vice president for Administration & Business Affairs, noted caring employers need to give more attention to the mental health and well-being of students, faculty and staff.
“Our first steps were to establish a mental health and wellness strategy and define the role it will play in developing relevant outreach activities and programs, building relationships with internal and external stakeholders, and ensuring compliance with all appropriate counseling protocols,” Muladore said.
A survey by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine reported 40% of students experienced a significant mental health challenge. In 2018-19, their survey found:
- major depression affected 18% of students compared to 8% in 2007;
- severe anxiety affected 14%, compared to 6%;
- 2% made a suicide attempt compared to 0.6% in 2007.
The new model is expected to strategically respond to a wide range of mental health concerns for students, faculty and staff to provide a range of short-term solutions and/or referral, as appropriate. Education and training will be made available for faculty, staff and students on topics such as alcohol and other drugs, substance abuse and suicide prevention.
Staff in the center will develop and maintain relationships with local and regional mental health and medical professionals. SVSU staff also will identify and establish a network of services accessible to students who have no insurance or limited resources.
In hiring Bach, Muladore added “she will play an instrumental role in the development of our Campus Mental Health and Wellness Center.
“Margie Bach is a proven and experienced professional in the mental health field who is well positioned to lead our new model,” he said. “Margie’s career experiences provide her the ability to communicate with and seek input from multiple university constituencies necessary for this initiative to be successful.”
Prior to accepting her new assignment at SVSU, Bach had served since 2007 as president and chief executive officer for Child & Family Services in Saginaw. She was responsible for all program activities for the organization’s counseling center, employee wellness center and sexual assault center. Before advancing to her senior administrative position, Bach was the director of program and operations from 2002-2007, and the sexual assault center director from 1999-2002.
Bach earned a Master of Social Work degree from Western Michigan University. She is a licensed clinical social worker through the State of Michigan Board of Social Work.
“I am eager to bring my experience in program development, relationship building, strategic planning and building counseling programs to Saginaw Valley State University,” Bach said. “I believe mental health plays a central role in everyone’s health, including students, faculty and staff.
“As the CEO of an organization that offers counseling, employee wellness and sexual assault crisis services to the region, I believe I can bring my experience to the campus and in turn learn from the campus community,” she said. “I look forward to developing new initiatives that will support the entire culture of Saginaw Valley State University.”
Bach will assume her new SVSU duties on Monday, April 5.