Investing in Mental Health: UNCW Part of Large Grant to Bolster Resources for Students

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Dr. Mark Perez-Lopez, director of UNCW’s Counseling Center and University Testing Services, has been awarded $99,815 from the University of North Carolina System Office to support advancing knowledge and support of students experiencing behavioral health needs.

A total of $981,181 in grant funding was awarded to 12 UNC System institutions to increase behavioral health capacity and strengthen mental health resources available to students. Supported by the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund, the grants allow universities to provide more support services to more students. Studies have shown students’ pre-existing mental health challenges have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Perez-Lopez, the funds will be used to provide resources for three main areas: 

  • Funding to expand bystander intervention training: Since 2008, the Counseling Center has offered, "Question, Persuade and Refer," a nationally recognized suicide prevention training program. The grant will support training for all clinical staff to become certified to deliver the Mental Health First Aid program to the campus community.
  • Funding for a full-time case manager to supplement existing case management services and assist with coordination of care with off-campus providers, including referral, follow-up and maintenance of a database of off-campus practitioners.
  • Funding for a part-time outreach coordinator to coordinate efforts to educate the campus community about mental health and resources on campus and expand educational programs and services.

Located in DePaolo Hall, the Counseling Center provides a range of psychological, counseling and educational services to students and consultations to faculty, administrators and departments concerning student mental health needs.

Perez-Lopez has served as director of the counseling center and testing services since 2018. He holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Arkansas. His main area of clinical specialization is eating disorders; other areas of interest include working with first responders, risk and threat assessment and supervision and training.

-- Caroline Cropp