Welcome to #VTBetterTogether
A Campaign for Mental Health
#VTBetterTogether is a public health campaign to support mental health in the Virginia Tech community. It began in 2018 when Provost Cyril Clarke commissioned a task force to study mental health concerns at Virginia Tech. Under the direction of Chris Wise, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, the task force was charged with examining the significant increase in student requests for mental health services that had been building over time. The complete Virginia Tech Mental Health Task Force: Recommendation Report, March 2019 is available online.
The task force issued eight recommendations. First among them was that Virginia Tech begin an awareness campaign that “will empower all Hokies to become mental health advocates through accurate information and data, training and education, and resource awareness.”
An advisory group met in spring 2020 and spent time with students, faculty, and staff to determine the focus, goals, and parameters of a mental health awareness campaign. The result is #VTBetterTogether, which emphasizes that mental health is a prerequisite for well-being and that each member of the community can be involved in supporting one another’s efforts toward mental health.
A basic assumption of the campaign is that mental health and mental illness are not opposite ends of a continuum; rather, they are separate but related dimensions. Those of us who face challenges to mental health are entitled to support in the pursuit of well-being, and mental health remains a priority for each in our community. The World Health Organization noted in 2003 that “there is no health without mental health” and that the pursuit of health is a dynamic process that involves an entire community.
#VTBetterTogether has a number of basic premises to achieve the promotion of mental health at Virginia Tech. They include:
- The campaign will support student success and well-being through a community-wide effort.
- The campaign will include information awareness as well as focused trainings and resource development for faculty, staff, and students.
- The university community will develop basic knowledge of all resources for mental health.
- The campaign will advocate for increased resources for students with mental health challenges.
- Mental health is an important goal for all of us; therefore, the campaign will be inclusive of each and every Hokie.
- Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) is foundational for all at Virginia Tech. The campaign will encourage belonging through “Let’s Listen” in which each of us will care for one another by noticing individuals who may be in distress, by asking if we can assist, and by listening to their concerns.
The #VTBetterTogether Advisory Group
As noted, the Virginia Tech Mental Health Task Force Report includes eight recommendations to support mental health in the university community (see page five of the report). Realizing that implementation of the recommendations would require sustained time and attention, the university asked Christopher Flynn, Ph.D. and Laura Hungerford, Ph.D., MPH, DVM to serve as co-leaders of these efforts. Both served as members of the Mental Health Task Force, Flynn as director of the Cook Counseling Center and Hungerford as Department Head of Population Health Sciences. They began their work in 2020 and recruited an advisory group that includes students, faculty, and staff. As the year progressed, Isabella Moncure, a graduate student in public health, was hired to serve as Social Media Coordinator.
Christopher Flynn, Ph.D. is Executive Director of Mental Health Initiatives at Virginia Tech. Previously, Flynn served as director of the Thomas E. Cook Counseling Center at Virginia Tech (2006-2020), the director of Counseling and Career Services at Loyola University New Orleans (1989-2006), and Staff Psychologist in University Counseling Services at Boston College (1984-1989).
Flynn holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Miami. Licensed as a clinical psychologist and certified as a sex therapist (AASECT), Flynn’s clinical interests include individual and couples’ therapy, sexual functioning, disparities in access to mental health, and crisis response. He is an active member of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD) and previously served on the AUCCCD board of directors. In 2013, he was awarded the AUCCCD Lifetime Achievement Award and received the Award for Excellence in Counseling Center Scholarship in 2008, 2016, and 2017. Flynn served on the Board of the International Accreditation of Counseling Services and was President of the board (2017-2018).
Laura Hungerford, DVM, MPH, Ph.D., CPH is Professor and Department Head of Population Health Sciences and Interim Director of the Master’s in Public Health Program, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Prior to joining Virginia Tech, she served in a variety of capacities at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, including as Professor of Epidemiology and Director of the Graduate Program in Epidemiology and Human Genetics. She is licensed to practice veterinary medicine in Maryland, Michigan, Illinois, and Nebraska and is certified by the National Board of Public Health Examiners.
Hungerford’s research involves collaborative studies of animal-related risk factors for infectious and zoonotic diseases and predictors for drug effectiveness and safety problems. She teaches a wide range of epidemiology and public health courses to graduate and veterinary students. She was recently elected as a Distinguished Scholar and Fellow in the National Academies of Practice and was past President of the Association for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine.
Isabella Moncure, B.S., MPH (in progress) is the Mental Health Initiative Communicator and Social Media Coordinator at Virginia Tech and is actively promoting #VTBetterTogether. Moncure is pursuing a master’s degree in Public Health at Virginia Tech. She completed her undergraduate degree in Health Sciences at James Madison University (2020). While at James Madison, she worked in University Recreation and developed an interest in overall health and well-being. She is passionate about supporting those who are living with mental illness and hopes to open a Behavioral Health Center to treat individuals living with anxiety and depression. Moncure runs a small business creating clothing and donates a portion of the profits to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
- David Andrews - Associate Director, Hokie Wellness and Mental Health Coalition
- Sandra Broughton - Assistant Director, Communications, Student Affairs
- Ali Cross - Director, Recreational Sports
- Krista Gwilliam - Associate Director, Recreational Sports and Athletics
- Monika Gibson - Assistant Dean and Director of Student Services, Graduate School
- Saad Khan - Secretary of Active Minds and a senior majoring in Neuroscience and Psychology
- Matthew Komelski - Advanced Instructor, Human Development and Humans Science
- Chloe Loving - Graduate Student, Public Health
- Katie Mallory - Executive Officer, Corps of Cadets
- Trinley Palmo - Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Cook Counseling Center
- Swathi Prabhu - Mental Health Initiatives Coordinator, Hokie Wellness
- Bethany Rallis - Staff Psychologist and Research Coordinator, Cook Counseling Center, and Board Member, Center for Collegiate Mental Health
- Jody Russon - Assistant Professor, Marriage and Family Therapy
- Stephanie Smith - Assistant Professor, School of Communication
- Will Trent - Marketing Manager, Recreational Sports
- Amanda Villar - Academic Advisor, Department of Religion and Culture, and Vice-Chair, VT Academic Advising Network
- William Wallace - Health and Wellness, Student Government Association
- Alyssa Wills - President, Active Minds and a psychology major
- Chris Wise - Assistant Vice President for Health and Wellness
- Brian Yohn - Assistant Director for Creative Services, Communications