Mental Health is Just as Important as Physical Health

Laura Horne
Laura Horne

Recommendations from the healthiest campuses in the country.

Over the past three years, Active Minds students around the country have successfully advocated for mental health to be given equal priority as physical health by impacting leave of absence policies and insurance plans, adding mental health services to course syllabi and other initiatives.

Additionally, through the Healthy Campus Award, Active Minds champions schools that not only serve students’ physical health but give equal priority and investment to mental health. We look forward to learning more about campus successes through the 2018 Active Minds Healthy Campus Award (the Call for Applications is open now!).

In the meantime, we asked previous winners for their recommendations on how to build healthy campuses that equally prioritize mental health. The schools have spent years investing time, energy, resources, creativity and leadership in creating a culture of health on campus. They know it’s essential for student success and their schools’ mission. Read on for a checklist you can use to assess you own campus based on their best advice:

  • Does your campus prioritize a collective, strategic approach?

Building a healthy campus involves students, faculty, staff, and administrators across multiple departments and disciplines. At University of Wisconsin-Madison, the campus wellness council includes departments and units throughout the university. Together, they ensured that the campus’s master plan preserved or developed spaces and locations on campus to better support student wellness.

  • Does your campus define health broadly?

Physical health and mental health are interconnected and healthy campuses use diverse strategies to address multiple factors that impact health. CSU Long Beach, for example, offers a program consisting of yoga, meditation, and discussions for survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence. Additionally, their LIFE Project is a rare example of a comprehensive resource for students with autism. The university also allows emotional support animals to live in residence halls with students who need them and offers a financial health course for students least likely to have had access to that information growing up.

  • Has your campus made policy, environmental, and systems changes to support student health?

Many campuses, such as Sacramento State, are having success integrating health education into freshmen courses while UW-Madison are integrating health and well-being into classrooms by redesigning first-year lecture courses. CSU Long Beach also developed a Student Emergency Intervention Program involving multiple departments to help students who are hungry or homeless receive meals, housing, and emergency funds and counseling so that they can continue their education.

  • Does your campus ensure that all students have equal opportunities for health?

For example, research shows that transgender students are at significant risk for suicidal thoughts. The School of Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) listened when transgender students spoke up for their needs. Their award-winning training curriculum on transgender student health is now used by many college counseling and health professionals. Similarly, the UW-Madison has fully implemented guidelines for Trans-Inclusive College Health Programs.

  • Does your campus measure results and share progress?

SAIC’s success in securing funding to support its healthy campus efforts is due to consistently measuring and reporting results. Their participation in national studies, such as the Healthy Minds Study, has allowed them to see positive trends in the number of students seeking mental health help, exercising, and avoiding binge drinking and cigarette use.

  • Does your campus provide quality, responsive, accessible health services?

One way to increase access to health services is through integrated and centralized campus services. Lawrence University increased student use of wellness services by 300 percent when they integrated their counseling, health and recreation services into a new wellness center located centrally on campus.



The Call for Applications for the 2018 Healthy Campus Award is now open. To read other recommendations and apply for the award, visit

If you are a student and you would like to be more active in your school’s healthy campus efforts, check out Active Minds’ Transform Your Campus resources for successfully engaging in student-led campus change.

The Active Minds Healthy Campus Award is made possible through the generous support of The Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation.