In response to the two students who lost their lives to suicide last year, the University has unveiled a revamped digital portal meant to assist students in managing their mental health.
Called CoogsCARE, the website consists of mental health resources for students and faculty. The site offers easy access to suicide prevention training, digital support chats and quick links to other auxiliary services. For those who need guidance in real time, the site also includes hotlines for both UH health professionals and the National Suicide and Crisis Lifelines.
“CoogsCARE is a philosophical approach of how we want to support each other on this campus,” said Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, Chris Dawe. “In mental health, but also our well being in a larger sense as well.”
Created in response to directives from UH’s Task Force for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide — a group formed last year to advise administrators on matters relating to mental health — CoogsCARE aims to be a one-stop shop for students’ psychological needs.
“We got those recommendations in May, and we already have the JED strategic plan,” Dawe said. “Part of our work was to put all of those things together in one big plan.”
Other departments and services across UH have come together to offer their support through CoogsCARE. The A.D Bruce Religion Center is one of the supporting providers through the portal, and offers students spiritual counseling and mentorship.
“The A.D Bruce Religion Center offers a place for both quiet meditation and spiritual growth,” said Cheyenne Peer, events and administrative coordinator for the A.D Bruce Religion Center. “While the A.D Bruce Religion Center is non-denominational, the staff and spiritual leaders are happy to connect the community with those that need guidance or someone to speak to.”
In addition to counseling services, CoogsCARE also offers a variety of programs meant to help students identify when their peers may be in crisis. You Can Help a Coog teaches students to recognize and respond to concerning behavior and how to refer others to the appropriate resources.
For students, however, the issue of mental health on campus remains divisive. Some, like biomedical engineering sophomore Amen Khan, see CoogsCARE as too little, too late.
“I think this CoogsCARE program came a little late,” Khan said. “It would have been helpful if we had something like this when the problems first started.”
While Khan said she remains optimistic, she criticized the University for what she saw as a delayed response to last year’s tragic events.
“I feel like there was not enough done because it happened again, and it wasn’t addressed at first,” Khan said. “It did take UH a long time to respond to the fact that it happened, and I think that was harmful.”
Though the program has its skeptics, others see it as a step in the right direction.
“I think that’s a very positive thing to do for students,” said Junior Engineering student Bruno Iniguez Arredondo. “I’m happy to hear about that.”
The program, while still somewhat divisive among students, is still evolving. Shawn Lindsay, associate vice president for media relations at UH, said CoogsCARE, and the University’s approach to mental health, is constantly improving. As the site continues to expand, staff will keep the community updated with a monthly newsletter.
“The University of Houston is actively working to improve mental health and wellness on campus, emphasizing both individual self-care and a broader community care culture,” Lindsay said.