Buffalo, NY

Mental Health is top of mind at Houghton University

Houghton University recently received a 2023 Health Equity Innovation Award from Univera Healthcare to provide on-campus mental health and wellness activities for its students. 

A small private Christian-centered, liberal arts university located in rural northern Allegany County, Houghton University is taking a proactive approach to help provide mental health resources that are not available outside the university to their more than 1,000 students. 

The grant will fund wellness and mental health support programs through the University’s Center for Student Success that includes training peer mentors and advocates to understand the mental health needs of students, Wellness Wednesday initiatives, such as Mums and Meditating, and educational workshops like anxiety and sleep hygiene. 

“This funding helps our students directly through enhanced and extended programming to address the realities of an ever-growing mental health crisis in our society,” stated Bill Burrichter, Ph.D., vice president for student life. “But, more importantly, this funding helps our larger Western New York community. When people have developed the skills and resources to manage the stressful realities of life well, they are more productive students, workers, community members and contributors in our society. Houghton University recognizes that this funding is crucial to the health and wellbeing of our students and we are grateful for the generosity of Univera Healthcare.”

At Houghton University, 40% of the students are Pell eligible, a federal subsidy for financially challenged undergraduates. Statistics show that people who struggle with mental health come from impoverished backgrounds. So, there is a pressing need to provide the necessary resources.*

“Our mission at Univera Healthcare is to help people lead heathier more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care,” said Art Wingerter, president of Univera Healthcare. “Together, our organizations can provide resources to support initiatives that directly target health disparities, promote access to care, and address the underlying social determinants of health, to help ensure everyone can reach their full potential.”

A success story: Breaking barriers by overcoming mental health challenges 
Dr. Burrichter shared that early in the semester, a student was struggling with being away from home, managing her mental health issues, and meeting new people. 

“She didn’t think she would make it to the end. She attended one of the Wellness Wednesday sessions and returned the following week,” he explained. “From there, she began building her confidence and started to slowly build relationships. She also learned strategies to help her cope with her stress and anxiety.” 

Because of the impact the services had on the student, she is looking forward to returning next semester and is already thinking about the courses she will be taking. 

“This would not have been possible without the mental health programs in place at Houghton University,” Dr. Burrichter said. 

Unpacking the impact of mental health on students

According to BestColleges’ 2022 College Student Mental Health Report:

•    In 2022, over three-quarters of college students (77%) experienced moderate to serious psychological distress.
•    35% of students were diagnosed with anxiety; 27% had depression.
•    Trauma, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, bipolar disorders, and substance use disorders are other mental health conditions affecting college students.
•    Almost 9 in 10 students (89%) who face academic challenges say they affect their mental health. 
•    In 2021, 28% of students said they often feel isolated from others.
•    Trans/gender-nonconforming and LGBTQIA+ students report higher levels of mental health challenges than their cis and straight peers.
•    College athletes, especially in women's sports, experience heightened levels of negative mental health symptoms like anxiety, trouble sleeping, mental exhaustion, and feeling overwhelmed.

More on the Health Equity Innovation Awards
Univera Healthcare’s Health Equity Innovation Awards represent more than $112,000 in financial support the nonprofit health insurer is providing to community programs that address racial and ethnic health disparities across the Western New York region.
For more information visit Univera Healthcare announces 2023 Health Equity Innovation Awards Recipients | News | Univera Healthcare.

* Sources: Morales, D.A., Barksdale, C.L., Beckel-Mitchener, A.C. (2020). A call to action to address rural mental health disparities. Journal of Clinical and Translational Science 4(5) 463-467.  doi: 10.1017/cts.2020.42

Knifton, L. & Inglis, G. (2020) Poverty and mental health: policy, practice and research implications. BJPsych Bulletin 44 (5) 193-196.    https://doi.org/10.1192/bjb.2020.78 

Acri, M.C., Bornheimer, L.A., Jessell, L., Chromancuzuk, A.H., Adler, J.G., Gopalan, G., and McKay, M.M. (2017) The intersection of extreme poverty and familial mental health in the United States. Social Work Mental Health 15(6) 677-689. doi: 10.1080/15332985.2017.1319893

Kandis Fuller, APR, kandis.fuller@univerahealthcare.com

Univera Healthcare is a nonprofit health plan that serves members across the eight counties of Western New York. With more than 500 Buffalo-based employees and a local leadership team, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. Univera is part of a Rochester-based health insurer that serves more than 1.5 million members across upstate New York. Its mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care, and its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. To learn more, visit UniveraHealthcare.com


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