Mental Health Curriculum Infused Into GT 1000, 2000
Students participate in group discussions in a GT1000 class in the Skiles building.
This fall, students enrolled in GT 1000 or GT 2000 are getting an introductory dose of mental health education, thanks to a multifaceted campus partnership.
The Student Government Association (SGA), Counseling Center, and Center for Academic Enrichment (CAE) unveiled a new mental health curriculum to be infused into sections of GT 1000: The First-Year Seminar and GT 2000: The Transfer Seminar. Both classes are one-credit-hour, discussion-based courses designed to help new students transition into life at Tech. While the mental health curriculum is not designed to be a lesson plan, it provides instructors with resources to introduce sensitive topics to their students early on in their Tech careers.
“You don’t have to be a mental health professional to lead and support a discussion about it,” said Janice Harewood, licensed psychologist and assistant director for Outreach and Wellness for the Counseling Center.
The curriculum infusion is specifically designed for GT 1000 and GT 2000’s discussion-style setting. It highlights mental health resources available on campus, provides reading resources and videos to help promote classroom discussion, and gives instructors suggestions for how to start talking about mental health with their students. Instructors can also reach out to professionals at the Counseling Center and ask them to lead workshops on a variety of mental health topics.
Jackson Caruso, vice president of Communications for undergraduate SGA, and Haigh Angell, executive vice president of undergraduate SGA, began working on the idea with the Counseling Center and CAE after Caruso took GT 1000 as a summer first-year student in 2018. In April, SGA hosted a roundtable with representatives from CAE, the Counseling Center, the Mental Health Student Coalition, the Office of the Provost, and Pride Alliance to discuss areas of concern surrounding student mental health and recommendations for how the curriculum infusion could address them.
The Counseling Center took this feedback and spearheaded the development of the curriculum itself, which consists of seven topic areas ranging from anxiety and depression to international and transfer students’ struggles in adjusting to a new environment. Harewood and Julia Rizzo, suicide prevention and crisis response coordinator for the Counseling Center, worked together to compile the instructional resource. They prioritized making it accessible for instructors so they wouldn’t have to develop their own resources from scratch.
The curriculum was distributed this fall to all GT 1000 and GT 2000 instructors as a Canvas page, with each topic corresponding to a different module. Lacy Hodges, assistant director in the Center for Academic Enrichment, developed the Canvas page, since CAE oversees all of GT 1000 and GT 2000. Hodges also invited professionals from the Counseling Center into the annual training for GT 1000 and GT 2000 instructors, which takes place each summer.
“As we continue to assess and implement this initiative, it’s imperative that our instructors are properly trained on best practices for addressing mental health and wellness and are familiar with the resources available to our students both on and off campus,” Hodges said.
Ultimately, the goals of this curriculum infusion are twofold: to destigmatize the issue of mental health, and to make sure students know the resources that are available to them.
“I look at this as part of a broader picture of how you can help change the culture of mental health on campus,” said Caruso. He believes that introducing mental health topics in class will lead to open conversations among students about their struggles — whether mental, physical, social, or academic. He cites the experience of failing a first test at Tech as an example of a situation where it’s important to talk to peers.
“You’re thinking, ‘Tech is hard, I don’t know what I’m going to do,’ and yet you also don’t want to talk about it,” Caruso said. “We can do a better job of saying that it’s all right that you failed, and this is how we can improve.”
SGA, along with CAE and the Counseling Center, see this curriculum infusion project as ever-evolving, and one that will adapt to student and instructor feedback.
“Ultimately, we hope that instructors in GT 1000 and GT 2000 will review these resources and at some level make mental health a natural part of the conversation,” said Harewood.
Campus Mental Health Resources
- Center for Assessment, Referral and Education (CARE)
- Tech Ends Suicide Together
- Counseling Center
- Dean of Students Referral Form
- Georgia Tech CARE: 404-894-3498
- Georgia Tech Counseling Center: 404-894-2575
- Georgia Tech Police Department: 404-894-2500
- Georgia Crisis and Access Line: 1-800-715-4225
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- National Hopeline Network: 1-800-784-2433