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Some stories require a little more – a little more discussion, more context, more depth and breadth. 

That’s the idea behind “Behind the Blue” – a weekly podcast created by UK Strategic Communications. It is designed to explore through probing interviews the in-depth the stories that make UK the university for Kentucky and that have impact across the institution, the Commonwealth and, in some cases, the world. 

"Behind the Blue" is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify. Become a subscriber to receive new episodes of “Behind the Blue” each week. UK’s latest medical breakthroughs, research, artists and writers will be featured, along with the most important news impacting the university.

For questions or comments about this or any other episode of "Behind the Blue," email BehindTheBlue@uky.edu or tweet your question with #BehindTheBlue. Transcripts for this or other episodes of Behind the Blue can be downloaded from the show’s blog page.

To discover what’s wildly possible at the University of Kentucky, click here.

Oct 12, 2023

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 12, 2023) – College students today are juggling an array of challenges, from coursework, relationships and adjustment to campus life to economic strain, social injustice and mass violence. As these challenges increase, so does the data on mental health in college students. 

During the 2020–2021 school year, the CDC collected data from 373 college campuses nationwide. They found that more than 60% of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health problem. As a result, school leaders are starting to think outside the box about how to best support students' mental well-being.

In honor of World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10, UKNow interviewed Kimberly Rufra, director of Prevention, Outreach, and Wellness Education Resources (POWER), to discuss all things mental well-being on the University of Kentucky’s campus.

A Kentucky Native, Rufra believes that we all share a collective responsibility in advancing the mental well-being of our students.

“Throughout my journey, I have worked closely with students, which has deepened my understanding of their needs and further fueled my commitment to their holistic well-being,” said Rufra. “While many institutions provide well-being support for their students, the newly expanded Student Well-Being area at UK is a model many are trying to replicate. The opportunity to serve as the inaugural director for POWER is an honor.”

POWER, housed in the Office of Student Success aims to provide accessible educational opportunities to promote healthy behaviors among students. They offer programs and resources to support students in managing stress, substance misuse, sexual health, sleep and mental health. Their goal is to be a one-stop location for all wellness needs.

 

“Our commitment to supporting students at every stage of their college experience is rooted in our desire to ensure their well-being and overall success,” said Rufra. “Mental illness can profoundly affect not only a person's mental and emotional state but also their physical health, social connections and livelihoods. Through initiatives like World Mental Health Day and similar observances, the University of Kentucky actively engages in several actions.”

 These include:

  1. Promoting Prevention: We are committed to preventing mental health issues through awareness and proactive measures.
  2. Raising Awareness: We strive to increase understanding and knowledge about mental health to reduce stigma and misconceptions.
  3. Reducing Stigma: We work diligently to break down the barriers of stigma associated with mental health, fostering an environment where people can seek help without fear or judgment.
  4. Providing Support: Our focus is on offering support and resources to those in need, ensuring that no one faces mental health challenges alone.
  5. Training and Education: We prioritize the training and education of our community to equip individuals with the tools and knowledge to support one another effectively.
  6. Showcasing Coordinated Efforts: We are dedicated to demonstrating a unified front in addressing mental health issues, highlighting the collaborative efforts of various campus units and individuals.
  7. Recognizing Valuable Contributions: We acknowledge and honor those who play a crucial role in supporting our students and the overall well-being of the university community.

World Mental Health Day serves as an incredible opportunity for people and communities to unite behind this year’s theme ‘Mental health is a universal human right to improve knowledge, raise awareness and drive actions that promote and protect everyone’s mental health.

While this day comes once every year, the university strives to prioritize mental health year-round and well into the future through units on campus like POWER.

 

“My vision for POWER is to establish ourselves as the go-to, reliable resource for health and well-being prevention matters,” said Rufra. “We aim to provide first-rate training on pertinent topics and aspire to set the standard that others in the SEC and higher education institutions seek to emulate. Our goal is to become a model for well-being and student prevention at the University of Kentucky, ensuring the implementation and revisions of our strategic plan as needed. Most importantly, we are committed to fulfilling our duty to empower members of the community with the skills to enhance their well-being.”

To learn more about Kim Rufra’s journey to UK, well-being resources on campus and how she will lead POWER into the future, listen to the Behind the Blue Above.

"Behind the Blue" is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify. Become a subscriber to receive new episodes of “Behind the Blue” each week. UK’s latest medical breakthroughs, research, artists and writers will be featured, along with the most important news impacting the university.

For questions or comments about this or any other episode of "Behind the Blue," email BehindTheBlue@uky.edu or tweet your question with #BehindTheBlue. Transcripts for this or other episodes of "Behind the Blue" can be downloaded from the show’s blog page.

To discover what’s wildly possible at the University of Kentucky, click here.