Investiture week panel focuses on mental health, well-being as strategic priorities for student success

Nance Lucas, Rose Pascarell, and Rachel Wernicke. Photo provided
Leah Adams, Elisa Akins and Shekila Melchior. Photos provided

The global pandemic has brought mental health and well-being to the forefront, and George Mason University provides a variety of services and strategies to the community for addressing those challenges.

That’s part of what will be shared at an Investiture week panel "Mental Health and Well-Being as Strategic Priorities for Student Success" on Wednesday, Oct. 20 from 2:30-4 p.m. in Merten Hall, Room 1201, on the Fairfax Campus. The event is open to faculty, staff and students.

“What’s great about having a panel as part of this process with the investiture of the president is that it really highlights the importance of this issue, and puts it in the spotlight,” said Rachel Wernicke, associate dean and chief mental health officer, University Life. “Mental health is one of our top concerns nationally and certainly as a priority here at Mason.”

Featured panelists include

  • Rose Pascarell, vice president, University Life
  • Rachel Wernicke, associate dean and chief mental health officer, University Life
  • Nance Lucas, executive director and chief well-being officer, Center for the Advancement of Well-Being
  • Leah Adams, assistant professor, Psychology Department and Women and Gender Studies Program
  • Elisa Akins, psychology major, peer success coach
  • Shekila Melchior, assistant professor, College of Education and Human Development

“Mason has taken on the challenge to respond to mental health and overall student well-being in a focused approach,” said Pascarell.

For example, Mason has a partnership with the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to help universities implement a public health approach to the prevention of serious substance abuse and suicide, Wernicke said.

“Most recently, we’ve really taken an equity lens to these issues, in both assessing and evaluating and creating new programs,” Pascarell added. “That’s important on a campus that has such incredibly rich diversity.”

There are several public education initiatives that exist to try to increase awareness and understanding on campus of well-being and mental health issues. A few examples include a digital guide to provide specific tips and recommendations for how faculty and staff can support students who have mental health concerns.

A digital resilience badge is offered through the Center for Advancement of Well-Being. It’s six-part program designed for students, but is also available for faculty and staff. There’s also the Mason Chooses Kindness initiative—as part of the Patriots Thriving Together well-being and mental health awareness campaign.

“In celebrating President Washington's Investiture, I think it's important to reflect upon the commitments and accomplishments we've made as an institution around students' mental health and well-being,” said Lucas. “We'll also explore future directions as we continue advancing our work in mental health and well-being at Mason.”

“What I hope is taken away from this event is that our community understands that their well-being and mental health is a priority and that we are working hard to support it,” said Wernicke.

Pre-registration is required. Event participants must complete the  Mason COVID Health Check and receive a “green light” status on the day of the event.