July 26, 2021

Experts at Ohio State create checklist to promote and protect student mental health

A new “return to campus” survey led by The Ohio State University’s Office of the Chief Wellness Officer finds rising rates of anxiety, depression, burnout and the use of unhealthy coping mechanisms among students navigating through a year affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, similar to other data on college students throughout the U.S.

Ohio State conducted surveys in August 2020 and April 2021 of randomly-selected students to assess changes in mental health, coping strategies, healthy lifestyle behaviors and needs over time. Among the 1,072 Ohio State students who responded:

  • Students who screened positive for anxiety:
    • August 2020: 39%
    • April 2021: 42.6%
  • Students who screened positive for depression:
    • August 2020: 24.1%
    • April 2021: 28.3%
  • Students who screened positive for burnout:
    • August 2020: 40%
    • April 2021: 71%
  • Coping methods self-identified by students:
    • Eating more unhealthy food rose from 25% to 29%
    • Use of alcohol rose from 15.5% to 18%
    • Use of tobacco/vaping rose from 6% to 8%
    • “Increased physical activity” dropped from 35% to 28%
  • Students seeing a mental health counselor increased from 13% to 22%

“Mental health promotion and access to services and evidence-based programs are going to be more important than ever,” said Bernadette Melnyk, vice president for health promotion, chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing at Ohio State. “Two-thirds of students who are no longer in college are not in college due to a mental health issue. We would not send divers into a deep ocean without an oxygen tank. How can we send our students throughout life without giving them the resiliency, cognitive-behavioral skills and coping mechanisms that we know are protective against mental health disorders and chronic disease?”

In that spirit, Melnyk and colleagues at The Ohio State University and the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center are using the findings to expand resources and integrate them into curricula and campus life. Melnyk and Melissa Shivers, who serves as senior vice president of the Office of Student Life at Ohio State, are co-chairing a new mental health commission created by university president Kristina Johnson. The commission will promote and protect the mental health and well-being of students as they return to campus, including enhancing and sustaining a caring and wellness culture that will benefit the entire university community.

The work includes the creation of a new “Five to Thrive” mental health checklist for all college students to use as they prepare to return to their campuses:

  1. Establish health habits that work for you: Schedule stress reduction, physical activity and healthy eating like you schedule classes and homework time.
  2. Build resiliency and coping skills: Practice deep breathing, mindfulness, gratitude and flipping negative thoughts with positive ones.
  3. Find local mental health support: Explore your school’s resources and locate/connect with counseling services, a primary care provider and pharmacy.
  4. Grow and maintain support systems: Get involved in campus life, meet new people and connect with positive people in your life.
  5. Don’t wait to get help: Seek professional help immediately if your symptoms or emotions are affecting concentration or functioning.

“Students who were dealing the best in terms of their emotional outcomes were connecting with family and friends, building their resiliency and engaged in physical activity,” Melnyk said. “So as students are welcomed back to campus this fall, these five steps are so critically important to both fortify a foundation of mental resiliency and make self-care and mental well-being a priority. It’s actually a strength to recognize when you need mental health help; it’s not a weakness.”

March 18, 2021


Avery Anderson, a PhD student in the College of Nursing’s abstract, The Three-Step Theory of Suicide: Analysis and Evaluation, was accepted and published in the scientific journal, Advances in Nursing Science.

Anderson’s clinical background in psychiatric nursing with children and adolescents and having the privilege to work with transgender and gender non-conforming children (TGNC) inspired him to dive into the disproportionate rates of mental health challenges and suicide that these children face.

“When we were tasked with choosing a theory to analyze and evaluate in our philosophy course, I was ready to dive into the suicide theory literature,” said Anderson.

Anderson and his mentor, Mary Beth Happ, PhD, RN, FAAN, FGSA, Associate Dean of Research and Innovation and Distinguished Professor of Critical Care Research in the college collaborated on this manuscript. Anderson is excited to share this important information and have this piece published.

Looking ahead, he hopes to provide clarifying insight around mental health and suicide, particularly for children who identify as TGNC. He knows he has more reading and learning to do before conducting his own research, but he has a big goal set for his future.

“I would say this speaks to the preparation of the PhD program and Dr. Happ’s mentorship that spurred this paper’s development,” said Anderson. “My career goal is to develop a research program that contributes to combating the disproportionately high suicide outcomes for TGNC kids.”

November 12, 2020

CARES grant to fund offerings aimed at reducing stress, anxiety and depression

The Ohio State University has received new state grant funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) to create and expand programming to help undergraduate and graduate students cope with stress, anxiety, depression and burnout associated with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A partnership of the Office of the University Chief Wellness Officer, Office of Student Life and College of Nursing is creating a suite of evidence-based resources, workshops and solutions aimed at helping students on Ohio State’s campuses improve their coping and resiliency skills.

“We have heard from many students about how stressed, worried, scared and depressed they feel as they try to balance the pressures of the pandemic with their academic and professional pursuits,” said Bernadette Melnyk, PhD, APRN-CNP, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN, vice president for health promotion, university chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing. “We are grateful for the grant funding awarded to us to help assess students’ well-being and offer them evidence-based programs and resources to help fortify their skills to deal with these pressures.”

The CARES grant, which totals approximately $611,000, will fund programs including:

  • SilverCloud: Student Life will purchase this online program with three modules targeting stress, anxiety and depression. SliverCloud solutions are evidence-based programs grounded in cognitive-behavior therapy, and this aspect will increase students’ access to care and mental health support.
  • Telehealth Wellness Hub: This online resource will be created to guide students through a comprehensive total health and well-being assessment. Based on that assessment, students can choose to be paired with an advanced practice nurse practitioner student from the Ohio State College of Nursing who will provide wellness coaching and support via telehealth technologies. This hub will be offered to undergraduate students at all of Ohio State’s campuses.
  • MINDSTRONG™: MINDSTRONG is specifically designed to help build coping skills and improve resiliency to help students deal with stress, anxiety or depressed mood. Twenty different research studies show that this evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral skills-building program can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression while improving healthy lifestyle behaviors. MINDSTRONG will be offered to both undergraduate and graduate students in a virtual setting.
  • Student programming: An allocation of grant funding will pay for programming to help students in quarantine and isolation housing stay connected and engaged. Additional funds will expand weekend virtual programming through the Office of Student Life.
  • Health Athlete: This program was developed in partnership with Johnson & Johnson’s Human Performance Institute. Health Athlete helps participants manage their energy and guide mental, emotional, physical and spiritual development to refocus and re-energize their lives. Participants will learn how they can become more engaged, more productive and more optimistic through these workshops. Health Athlete will be offered to graduate students.
  • Stress and Well-Being Assessment: This online screening will be offered specifically to graduate students. It measures stress and well-being and is designed to match participants with appropriate resources to help them cope with life’s challenges. Students will also be offered wellness coaching.

“We know that many students are struggling as this pandemic continues,” said Melissa Shivers, PhD, vice president for student life at Ohio State. “It has touched lives in so many ways, and we believe in our students’ resiliency and want to help them believe in it, too.”

The grant requires that funded programming must be offered between now and the turn of the year. The screenings and workshops offered by this partnership will launch by mid-November.

Students can find more information and sign up for this special programming at go.osu.edu/CARESwellness.

April 27, 2020

Systematic review critical to addressing burnout, mental health during pandemic

A new systematic review published today in the American Journal of Health Promotion that focuses on interventions to promote the health and well-being of physicians and nurses urges health care systems to incorporate programs supported by research that can help clinicians reduce symptoms of burnout, including stress, anxiety and depression.

Alarming rates of burnout, depression and suicide are not only negatively impacting physicians and nurses, but they are also linked to several negative consequences for health care systems, including dangerous medical errors and costly turnover. With the added stress of COVID-19, these alarming issues are likely to escalate.

This rigorous systematic review was conducted by an interprofessional research team as part of the National Academy of Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-being and Resilience. The team was led by Bernadette Melnyk, PhD, APRN-CNP, FAANP, FNAP, FAAAN, who serves as The Ohio State University’s vice president for health promotion, university chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing. The team reviewed 187 studies that led to the final inclusion of 29 studies with nearly 3,000 participants. Effective interventions identified in the review include:

  • Mindfulness and cognitive-behavioral therapy-based interventions for reducing stress, anxiety and depression
  • Brief interventions that incorporate deep breathing and gratitude
  • Visual triggers, pedometers and health coaching with texting for physical activity

“This review was designed to pinpoint those interventions that are most effective in decreasing depression, stress and anxiety, as well as enhancing healthy lifestyle behaviors in physicians and nurses ” Melnyk said. “Mental health problems were a public health epidemic that negatively impacted the quality and safety of care before the COVID-19 crisis started. Health care systems must urgently invest in wellness cultures and evidence-based interventions to prevent a tsunami of these problems in frontline clinicians following this pandemic.”

The study, “Interventions to Improve Mental Health, Well-being, Physical Health and Lifestyle Behaviors in Physicians and Nurses: A Systematic Review,” is available online at this link.

April 23, 2020

Health and well-being hub represents an innovative first step towards addressing burnout and associated mental health issues among nurses nationwide

Trusted Health, the career platform for the modern nurse, and The Ohio State University College of Nursing today announced a new initiative to promote mental health and well-being among nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will be piloted with nurses in New York and Michigan -- two of the states hit hardest by the pandemic -- and rolled out nationwide in the coming weeks. 

Even before the current crisis hit, burnout among nurses has been at an all-time high, with some studies estimating that up to 63 percent of nurses exhibit symptoms such as job-induced stress, anxiety and depression. In addition, nurses are at increased risk of suicide. More than half report being in suboptimal mental or physical health, which research shows can lead to more errors in caring for patients. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this issue, as frontline nurses find themselves delivering care for a high volume of acutely ill patients, often in situations with limited crisis response training or supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Trusted and The Ohio State University have come together to help address this issue through a partnership that will provide access to wellness support and evidence-based strategies from nursing faculty and advanced practice nursing (APN) students from The Ohio State University College of Nursing. Nurses employed by Trusted who are working in facilities with COVID-19 patients will be able to access an emotional support line staffed by seasoned nurse practitioner faculty, including mental health experts, and supervised students. Those faculty and students will review stressors with callers and offer coping strategies and stress-reduction techniques.

Nurses who call the emotional support line may then opt to participate in a wellness support partnership program supported by the College of Nursing for a period of four or eight weeks. This will include cognitive-behavioral skills building, motivational interviewing, mindfulness and therapeutic communication aimed at finding sustainable solutions to enhance the nurses’ health and well-being, both during the pandemic and for life.

“Our healthcare professionals on the front lines of this pandemic deserve not only our highest regards for their selfless service, but also our support to handle what they are feeling and experiencing because of this crisis,” said Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, PhD, APRN-CNP, EBP-C, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN, vice president for health promotion, university chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing at Ohio State. “Our college’s faculty, staff and students participating in this effort are well-versed in evidence-based interventions that will not only help these nurses survive, but thrive and build the resilience needed to continue to provide high-quality care and save lives.”

“As a nurses-first company, Trusted was founded on a simple idea: Nurses are the backbone of our healthcare system, and we must do more to support them,” said Dan Weberg, PhD, RN, head of clinical innovation at Trusted. “The COVID-19 crisis has pushed this issue into the national consciousness, and we are committed to using this moment to advocate for and identify new ways to support the mental well-being of nurses not just on the front lines, but everywhere.” 

Since the onset of COVID-19, Trusted has been focused on meeting the unprecedented demand for healthcare workers by matching nurses who have raised their hands to help with hospitals battling the pandemic. As a nurses-first company, Trusted was among the first to offer guaranteed quarantine pay for all of their nurses, and has made their Nurse Advocate team -- former bedside nurses who offer guidance throughout the job search process -- available 24/7 to support the needs of Trusted nurses working on the front lines. Over the last several weeks, nearly 40,000 nurses have signed up via Trusted to work on the front lines of the crisis. 

About Trusted Health

Trusted is where modern nurses go to build their careers. Nurses are the backbone of our healthcare system and yet their options for finding new roles are cumbersome and outdated. Trusted is on a mission to change this by matching the nurses on our platform with a range of flexible jobs that meet their preferences and career goals. With support from a dedicated Nurse Advocate and unmatched insight into compensation and contract details, Trusted makes it easy for nurses to navigate the job search process and manage their careers with confidence. 

Trusted supports hiring in all 50 states and has connected the nurses on its platform with thousands of opportunities. Based in San Francisco, CA, Trusted has raised $25 million in funding from Craft Ventures, Felicis Ventures, and Founder Collective, as well as healthcare innovators like Texas Medical Center and Healthbox. For more information, visit trustedhealth.com.

About The Ohio State University College of Nursing

The Ohio State University College of Nursing exists to transform health and improve lives through top-tier teaching, research and innovation, grounded in evidence-based practice and a powerful culture and support system to foster optimal personal well-being.

The college’s nationally-ranked academic programs taught by world-class faculty offer top-notch programs for future and current nurses and healthcare leaders. U.S. News & World Report highly ranks our university-wide online bachelor’s including RN to BSN (#1), online master’s (#4), traditional master’s (#6) and online Doctor of Nursing Practice (#8). Majors include both nursing and programs in healthcare and wellness innovation, along with certificates that range from school nurse and primary care to nurse education and nurse/health coaching.

The college’s two research centers – the Martha S. Pitzer Center for Women, Children and Youth and the Center for Healthy Aging, Self-Management and Complex Care – seek innovative solutions to real-world healthcare issues. The college received approximately $10.7 million in research awards in FY2019, including $4.3 million in NIH funding – #6 among public institutions and #13 overall. Its Helene Fuld Health Trust National Institute for Evidence-based Practice (EBP) in Nursing and Healthcare promotes EBP worldwide and offers the first globally-recognized certificate of added qualification in EBP.

April 30, 2015

On Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, The Ohio State University Office of the Chief Wellness Officer will host an important discussion that every parent should hear.

“Depression and Anxiety in Children and Teens: What Every Parent Must Know” will be from 10-11 a.m. on May 7 in 168 Newton Hall, located at 1585 Neil Avenue.

The free lecture will be presented by Bernadette Melnyk, PhD, RN, CPNP/PMHNP, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN, Ohio State’s associate vice president for health promotion, university chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing. Melnyk is a world-renowned authority and author on the topic of child and adolescent mental health and will share strategies for preventing, identifying and seeking help for depressive and anxiety disorders in today’s youth.

According to Melnyk, one in four American children and teenagers suffers from a mental health disorder that disrupts functioning at home, at school and with peers, yet less than 25 percent of affected children receive mental health treatment.

“If left untreated, mental health problems can lead to chronic illnesses that are more difficult to treat,” explained Melnyk. “Our ultimate goal is to prevent these conditions, but we also want to help parents identify the warning signs of anxiety and depression and give them the proper resources so that they know where to turn for help should their child develop a mental health problem.”

Participants may join via livestream at carmenconnect.osu.edu/mhd-talk. Ohio State users should log into CarmenConnect with their Ohio State account. Others may login as a guest. For detailed login instructions, visit go.osu.edu/carmenconnect-quickstart.