Grant allows Adams State to eliminate mental health taboos


Laurel Carter Main Image

Article by: Mariah Pepe 

The Adams State Health and Safety team dives into the arena of psychological well being after receiving the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Garrett Lee Smith grant.

This grant allowed the school to hire Laurel Carter, an 2010 Adams State Counselor’s Education master’s graduate, as the new Counseling and Career Services Suicide Prevention Outreach Coordinator. In this position, Carter will work towards mental illness prevention, mental health promotion, and infrastructure development.

The Garrett Lee Smith grant is a federal allocation that was set up after Garrett Lee Smith, the son of an influential politician, committed suicide. Adams State was selected to receive this grant based on its demographics, Colorado and the San Luis Valley’s high suicide rates, and the school’s partnership with the community.

With her experience as a child’s consultant and advocate at the San Luis Valley Community Medical Health Center, Carter plans to monitor certain student populations because they are statistically more likely to struggle with a mental health issue. However, “the main goal is to get the message out about mental health problems; they’re a lot more common than people think, and there is help available for those who need it. Students and faculty shouldn’t be ashamed to seek help with an issue,” said Carter. There are a plethora of other people going through similar issues, and there are even more ways to address the issue.

Mainly, Carter hopes to get students with mental health concerns connected with a mental health care provider and to see an increase in safe and confidential reporting of potential mental health constituents and people seeking counselors for personal assistance. “There is a strong need for a decreased stigma attached to mental health, and more open discussions about such topics,” said Carter.

Carter hopes to set up an online assessment to help people privately explore or identify their own anxiety, depression, or social phobias. This will provide the student with an initial idea of how serious his or her issue is, explain what may be happening, and give some insight to the types of help that he or she should be seeking. “It is a great opportunity for students to take that first step in feeling comfortable with talking about their mental health,” said Carter.

Carter also hopes to set up a mental health awareness week in early April that will include documentaries, guest speakers, and training in mental health first aid. All projects are currently in their preliminary stages, and student assistance will remain her focus.

The school is hoping to initiate a campus-wide survey on mental health awareness that will be compared to a survey taken after Carter’s ideas have been implemented.

“Our goal is to create an atmosphere where any student who is struggling with thoughts of suicide can be safely and confidentially connected with a counselor who can help with what the student is struggling with. With increased awareness, a safe reporting culture, a closer-knit community, and gatekeeper training, Adams State can continue to make the campus a safer place for everyone,” Carter said.

Anyone who wishes to report concerning behavior on campus can do so on the faculty and staff resources page by clicking on the link called “Concern Form” under the heading of Campus Services.