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Iowa State University offers a peer-led program, aimed to help support students' mental health

The university introduced a new peer-led program this fall to support students' mental health as well as a new staff position.

AMES, Iowa — As students at Iowa State University head back to the classroom this week, the campus is pushing for more awareness and accessibility surrounding mental health.

Director of Student Wellness at ISU, Brian Vanderheyden, says mental health for students has always been important but it is an even bigger priority this year.

The university currently has four different sections relating to mental health. 

  • Recreation services, 
  • Student wellness, 
  • Student counseling services 
  • Student health center. 

Vanderheyden says those sections help to foster a culture of openness with students to talk about problems as they happen. 

He noted his department of student wellness teaches students how to spot signs of distress in other students and learn how to help. 

The department will continue to promote those teachings this school year, but will also launch a new peer-led program called 'Wellbeing Coaching."

"Getting [students] connected to the Wellbeing Coaching program connects them with another student," Vanderheyden said. "It's a confidential space for them to talk about what's going on with them and to help them get connected to support as well as learn about things to enhance their well being."

Vanderheyden noted the program will be good for incoming students because he said oftentimes, they don't know where to go for help, and this could solve that.

The university is  also hiring a mental health promotion coordinator, a new position that Vanderhayden believes will promote further support for students' mental health. 

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