CSU Health Network helping students’ mental health through You@CSU program

Savannah Hoag

College is stressful, which makes college students prone to higher levels of stress and anxiety.

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(Photo courtesy of CSU.)

Colorado State University is combatting stress and anxiety by connecting students to campus resources through the You@CSU program. The program targets undergraduate students so they are able to create the most successful college experience.

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Janelle Patrias, the manager of mental health initiatives at Hartshorn Health Services, helped develop the program after being approached by Joe Conrad, the founder and CEO of Cactus.

Cactus is a Denver-based marketing and advertisement agency. Launched in 1990, it helps companies better market their brand to directly impact clients in a meaningful way. 

“I had been looking at a variety of technologies to help with mental health issues, and there weren’t any programs that were immediately helpful,” Patrias said. “They were all missing something.”

Man Therapy, one of Cactus’ clients, is a program designed to help working-age men in Colorado manage their mental health. Patrias and those at the Health Network tested Man Therapy on college-age men, who appreciated the website but did not ultimately find it helpful.

A team from Cactus and the Health Network then worked together to create the You@CSU program to help undergraduate students of any age and gender. Grit Digital Health developed the You program in collaboration with CSU, which then began CSU’s involvement as the pilot university for the program. This fortunately allows students to access the portal for free since the university is not obligated to pay a licensing fee. The program began its pilot stage in fall 2015 on a select few of journalism and graduate students. It officially launched in spring 2016 campus wide.

“We developed it (You@CSU) together with the CSU Health Network and CSU Student Affairs to provide a resource for students to better navigate campus and have a successful college experience,” Conrad said.

The longer You is used and assessments are taken the more personalized the program becomes for a student’s individual needs. Its diversity allows students to use it whenever and wherever they are, regardless of the situation.

“We have had over 2,000 unique users since February 22, and more than 980 students have created their own profile,” Patrias said.

Joseph Champ, a journalism professor at CSU, connected first year journalism students when the program was in its initial pilot stage.

“In talking it over with Joe Conrad, I realized that the You@CSU project provides us with a new, middle space between students and counseling,” Champ said. “In other words, perhaps someone doesn’t know how to, or doesn’t feel comfortable asking for help, but by interacting with this software, it might help them bridge that gap between understanding their challenges and reaching out for assistance.”

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Conrad believes that this program has the power to provide students with opportunities to develop into their own person and become successful in their future careers.

“If it helps even one person, and by ‘help’ I mean that keeps them healthy, balanced, and alive–then isn’t it absolutely more than worthwhile to try this new strategy?” Champ said.

Collegian Reporter Savannah Hoag can be reached at news@collegian.com or via Twitter @sav_hoag.