Mental Health Advocate highlight: Office of Financial Aid

Suspenders4Hope, a program developed at ͷ, is highlighting different departments and individuals on campus who are advocates for mental health in hopes that their stories will inspire others to continue supporting one another in the community.

The Office of Financial Aid is being recognized for its efforts in alleviating financial stressors for students and being advocates for mental health awareness on campus and in the community. Hear from Sheelu Surender, executive director of Financial Aid and Scholarships, on how the Office of Financial Aid is supporting mental health.

How does the Office of Financial Aid promote the importance of mental wellness on campus and in the community?

We make an intentional effort to remove any stigma around mental health wellness, which is often prevalent among first-generation and underrepresented students we meet with, by promoting the Care Team, CAPS and provide general information regarding various support and success services on campus. We also introduced a new specialist position in the Office of Financial Aid that focuses on students who are at risk of losing their financial aid, to coach them through options and how to navigate the appeal process to reduce their anxiety around financial aid issues, helping them persist. Our office also proudly wears our Suspenders4Hope T-shirts to promote mental wellness.

How do finances impact one’s mental health, and what does the Office of Financial Aid do to help alleviate those effects?

Finances can be one of the leading stressors for students. Through Shocker Financial Wellness workshops and individual peer-to-peer coaching, students are provided tools and resources to manage their college finances and help alleviate financial stress. Based on the institutional priority of access and affordability, our office has continued to increase need-based scholarships and grants to support students who have a gap between financial aid and costs.

We also engage in one-on-one advising to listen, acknowledge and support students who are struggling financially and offer loan repayment workshops for seniors and alumni to better understand options for the end of their academic journey.

In the Office of Financial Aid’s efforts to support mental wellness, what positive developments has the office seen recently?

We’ve seen increased participation in the Shocker Financial Wellness program and engagement on social media. Students are more encouraged to complete a financial aid appeal due to mental health challenges that prevented them making Satisfactory Academic Progress. Our office has consolidated the process for unaccompanied homeless youth, assisting these students by providing packets of information to navigate their circumstances.

What can others at WSU do to support mental wellness?

The campus community should attend the offered from Suspenders4Hope and continue to destigmatize mental health. It’s also important to practice active listening and be aware of the resources available. And remember: Share - Ask - Support.

What does Suspenders4Hope mean to staff in the Office of Financial Aid?

The partnership and advocacy of Suspenders4Hope means a lot to our office. Mental wellness and financial wellness go hand in hand and lead to student success. Suspenders4Hope provides reliable resources for students, faculty, staff and the community and breaks down the stigma of mental health.

How does the Office of Financial Aid incorporate Suspenders4Hope in its work?

We hosted a Suspenders4Hope staff training with all employees. It helped us be more prepared and intentional about incorporating the importance of mental health in our work. We have protocols that send referrals to the Care Team/CAPS, Shocker Support Locker and all the resources on and off campus to support mental wellbeing, and we promote mental health with staff and students, specifically by using Wellness cards at our team meetings and passing them out to students.

About ͷ

ͷ is Kansas' only urban public research university, enrolling more than 23,000 students between its main campus and WSU Tech, including students from every state in the U.S. and more than 100 countries. ͷ State and WSU Tech are recognized for being student centered and innovation driven.

Located in the largest city in the state with one of the highest concentrations in the United States of jobs involving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), ͷ provides uniquely distinctive and innovative pathways of applied learning, applied research and career opportunities for all of our students.

The Innovation Campus, which is a physical extension of the ͷ main campus, is one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing research/innovation parks, encompassing over 120 acres and is home to a number of global companies and organizations.

Follow ͷ State on social media:

Read more stories like this