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Source: Barbara Pearson, 785-532-6927, bpearson@k-state.edu.
Website: http://www.universitylifecafe.org/
News release prepared by: Greg Tammen, 785-532-2535, media@k-state.edu

Friday, June 4, 2010

K-STATE'S UNIVERSITYLIFECAFE.ORG NAMED ONE OF THE TOP 10 INNOVATIONS IN COLLEGE COUNSELING

MANHATTAN -- Kansas State University's UniversityLifeCafe.org -- a Web 2.0 site -- was recently named by the American College Personnel Association as one of the top 10 innovations in college counseling for the 2009-2010 academic year.

The website was selected from counseling centers from across the country.

"We're very excited about the award," said Barbara Pearson, director of the University Life Cafe and assistant director of K-State counseling services. "Not only does it recognize K-State and counseling services, but it gets the word out there about the website."

Since its soft launch in January 2009, University Life Cafe has garnered national attention for being the first of its kind: an interactive online space that promotes the mental wellness and academic success of college students at K-State. The site is designed by students to connect students, their families and the K-State community with the resources needed to manage the psychological demands of college life.

Hosted articles focus on how to stay mentally healthy, and range from how to deal with thoughts of suicide, to studying tips, to job search tips, to how to get a restful sleep. Students can comment on articles and submit their own, as well as submit their personal art, poetry, videos and blog posts.

"In an age of students being online and using this social technology more and more, we see them using it to interact and find information on their own and reach students who would not necessarily come to counseling services in person," Pearson said.

Because of this, Pearson said such a resource was necessary to provide students with accurate and beneficial information that promotes mental healthiness rather than focusing on the pathology of mental illness. Pearson said the site specifically targets suicide, which is the third leading cause of death for college students. Mood difficulties, along with learning difficulties, interpersonal conflicts and over- and under-eating, are also prevalent in college students and are also represented on the site.

According to the website's statistics, one of the most consistently viewed topics is eating disorders and body image concerns, Pearson said.

From Jan. 1 to May 1, the site has received 13,648 views, 66 percent of which were new visitors. Pearson said several of these hits have come from international IP addresses. She suspects this may be attributed to students who are studying abroad or are serving in the armed forces, as well as the families of international students.

"The response has been really positive, but we're hoping to reach the campus community even more than we have been," Pearson said. "We really want this to be a way for students and even faculty to find information and interact with one-another and to really break down that social stigma of mental illness by promoting help-seeking behaviors."

The project is supported by a $105,000 grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

More information about K-State's University Life Cafe is available at http://www.universitylifecafe.org/.