Empowering Minds, Changing Lives: May Shines a Spotlight on Mental Health Awareness Month

Discover Spalding’s dynamic mental health initiatives: Eagles Excellence Program, PMHNP Program, and CaPs

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This month perfectly aligns with Spalding’s mission to meet the needs of the times and address the evolving needs of the mental health field. At Spalding, we’re proud to provide a safe and inclusive environment to our students. We believe in providing top-notch access to mental health programs and resources.

Here’s a sneak peek of three mental health services and programs that carry on this mission-driven focus on helping those in our community with current mental health practices: Eagles Excellence Program, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMNP) Program, and Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPs). Learn how you can get involved in Spalding’s efforts and bring awareness to mental health and not just in May, but year-round.

Eagles Excellence Program

The Eagle Excellence Program created by Athletic Director Brian Clinard, and Clinical Psychology student Omar Vasquez, provides mental health resources to student athletes throughout their college journey to young adult life. Hear from Brian and Omar how the program got its start and the impact they hope it has on student-athletes.

Omar Vasquez and Brian Clinard

Tell us more about the Eagles Excellence Program, how it started, and some of its short term/long-term goals.

Brian: The Eagle Excellence Program stemmed from a conversation between a former Spalding baseball player and I about mental health resources. In addition, NCAA data showed that student-athletes as whole desire more mental health resources. Therefore, my thought was to provide better mental health resources for our student-athletes through a proactive approach and to help our student-athletes navigate their journey through college as a young adult and college athlete. 

Omar: The Eagle Excellence Program is one of the first of its kind in the country, a groundbreaking holistic program focused on the overall well-being of student-athletes. The Eagle Excellence Program is focused on supporting student-athletes athletically, mentally, academically, and emotionally.

Tell us how Spalding’s Eagles Excellence Program serves our student athletes and community.

Brian: Our goal is to meet the needs of our students by helping them navigate college and beyond. We hope that the Eagle Excellence Program provides our students with the tools to do so. The goal is for them to take these tools out into the world where they can share the theory or an experience to help someone else along their journey. 

Omar: The Eagle Excellence Program is aligned with Spalding University’s mission of “meeting the needs of the times” by serving the large student-athlete population in accessing resources and learning lifelong skills that can support their functioning as people in the world. Currently there are 263 undergraduate student-athletes at Spalding University. That’s approximately one third of the total undergraduate student population. Therefore, it is critical to support student-athletes in their development and help them build a foundation of life skills necessary to succeed as individuals at Spalding University and beyond. 

What is something that you wish people knew about our Eagles Excellence Program or mental health in general?

Brian: We are not just aiming to address issues as they arise. We are aiming to equip people with the tools to best combat life’s adversities as well as provide resources for when people need professional help.

Omar: Everyone faces challenges at some point or another. It is a part of being human! I would like people to know that the Eagle Excellence Program is a unique program that will have access to a lot of resources including:

Sport Psychology/Life Skills Services 
Mental Health Services 
Neuropsychology Services 
Academic Services 
Career Development Services 

We offer these services in a variety of formats including one-on-one, team workshops, and group meetings.

Are there any misconceptions regarding mental health and athletics that the Eagles Excellence Program is working to dispel?

Brian: Admission to going through something mentally is a weakness. It’s an unfair and false stigma in athletics and we’re here to break that down and provide an environment where our students feel comfortable telling others what they’re going through. 

Omar: Yes, mental health is not always seen as a part of athletics or athletic performance. However, mental health affects athletic performance and vice versa. The Eagle Excellence Program is focused on overall well-being and supporting student-athletes in being the best version of themselves both on and off the field.

How can Spalding student athletes get involved?

Omar: Stay tuned! The Eagle Excellence Program is getting ready to launch and will post and share information very soon. Once we launch, there will be various ways for student-athletes to get in contact. We ask that student-athletes contact and connect with us because I designed the program for them. 

The Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMNP) Program

Our next mental health program is our Master of Science in Nursing in Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMNP) Program. Jessica Estes, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner professor, explains that this program prepares you in an advanced nursing role of providing mental health treatment and support services to clients and their families.

Spalding nursing student in class

Tell us more about the PMHNP, how it started, and some of its short term/long term goals. 

Professor Estes: The PMHNP program is new to Spalding, we received approval in February 2023, to begin admitting students. The long-term goal is to add a post-master’s PMHNP option.

Tell us why Spalding’s PMHNP serves our students and community? 

Professor Estes: Kentucky is underserved in a variety of ways. One of those is mental health services. As prescriber’s PMHNPs fill a gap that are only traditionally filled by psychiatrists whose numbers are decreasing annually.

What is a myth or something that you wish people knew about mental health in general? 

Professor Estes: In general, mental health is as real as physical health. We spend time working to prevent physical illnesses but oftentimes don’t make the same commitment to our mental health.

How can potential students learn more about this program?

Professor Estes: Be on the lookout for emails and more marketing messaging on our website! Contact us at [email protected] for more information or any questions.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPs)

Here’s another example of our student-facing mental health programs: the Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPs). Allison From-Tapp, Senior Director of Health and Wellness, shares her knowledge on mental health advocacy and mental health resources in everything she does. She has been helping Spalding students throughout their college journey for over twenty years.

Spalding CaPs faculty with student

Tell us more about CAPS, how it started, and what are some short term/long term goals.

Allison: CaPS has had just two directors in our almost 40-year history. Dr. Tom Bergandi officially started “Student Counseling Center” in the late 80’s and remained the director for approximately 20 years until he went back to full time teaching. I took over in the Fall of 2000. Soon after, the name changed to Counseling and Psychological Services but the spirit of serving this community has never changed. The main goal of CaPS is to give students an outlet, a safe space, a sounding board, and knowledgeable staff to help work through any of life’s challenges.

Along with the mission of the university, CaPS works to meet the needs of the times and makes necessary changes over time to meet students where they are and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

How is CAPS important to our student body, faculty, staff, and community?

Allison: We acknowledge the unique strengths and concerns of our students, while working to enhance life skills, coping strategies, and interpersonal relationships. The primary function of the Spalding Counseling & Psychological Services Center (CaPS) is to provide a counseling service to the students of Spalding University at no extra cost to the client, and, secondly, to provide a learning center for qualified trainees, graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows.  Thus, this service provides a worthwhile and high-quality professional service to the University student body and addresses a need for supervised experiences for trainees.

Rooted in a commitment to culturally humble/competent and evidence-based practices, Spalding University Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) addresses the needs of students and consults with faculty and staff in order to enhance the well-being of the Spalding community. Through no extra cost individual, couples, and group psychotherapy and psychological assessment, students may come to appreciate the uniqueness of their personalities and discover new ways to develop their potential. Additionally, CaPS serves a role within the University at large. As the mental health experts on campus, we work in conjunction with our colleagues in Student Affairs toward the promotion of a healthy university environment for all those who live, learn, and work here. We accomplish this part of the mission by providing professional outreach and educational services and by fostering collaborative relationships across the University. CaPS staff believe that good mental health is the cornerstone of personal, academic, and career success.

What is something that you wish people knew about mental health in general?

Allison: That no one is above suffering. We all suffer in different ways and at different times. Suffering looks different in everyone. No one is above dealing with mental health because we are human. I wish people knew how to give more grace and remember that everyone deals with their own reality. Just because something doesn’t bother you doesn’t mean it doesn’t deeply affect others. Compassion and grace are two things we could all use more of.

How is CaPs acknowledging Mental Health Awareness Month?

Allison: Spalding CaPS will put on several events during the month of May to recognize mental health awareness month! Keep an eye out for Campus Happenings emails. These include a mindful movement and guided meditation event, an event introducing students to our meditation space, and hopefully an event in conjunction with Student Affairs helping students to plant in Spalding’s own raised garden beds and take home seeds themselves. At all events, students can expect to receive information about and have questions answered about mental health services available to them and support provided.

What is the call to action? How can potential students learn more about this program?

Allison: We would love to see people connect with CaPS more through some of our outreach on campus. Students can learn more about what we do at CaPS by finding us by emailing at [email protected] Learn more about CaPs here.

What is Spalding doing for Mental Health Awareness Month?

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we encourage all of our students to learn more about these mental health services and programs on our website and by talking to our Spalding faculty and staff. Spalding’s access to mental health programs and resources provides students with support throughout their college journey from freshman to alumni. The mental health journey looks different for all walks of life. Our Spalding community supports and welcomes all students who want to learn more about mental health services, to educate others, and be a part of a community that wants to better themselves. Remember to reach out to someone if you feel lonely, need help, or want to chat to our Spalding staff. Our Spalding staff is here to support you.