‘All In for K-State’ fundraiser to support mental health resources on campus

Kansas State University Foundation located at 1800 Kimball Ave, Manhattan, KS 66502. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State Foundation’s “All In for K-State” campaign will hold a 24-hour fundraiser to support a fundable idea positively impacting the K-State community. It is the third time the Foundation has held such an event.

This year’s event is set for March 23 with the goal of destigmatizing the use of mental health services at K-State while also increasing students’ abilities to access them, according to the campaign’s website.

The fundraiser in 2019 raised $320,560 to support Cats’ Cupboard, and 2021’s event raised $503,161 to reduce the cost of textbooks for students. It was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eric Holderness, associate vice president of development at the KSU Foundation, said the results of a survey done at K-State before the pandemic were one of the driving factors to choose this year’s issue.

“There were nearly 2,000 students who participated in this survey, and in that, we learned that 26 percent of students said they thought about killing themselves at some point, and that’s astonishing,” Holderness said. “We thought it completely necessary to go all in to support the sorts of services that reduce the sense of hopelessness, that increase the sense of belonging and those sorts of things that stave off any sort of thoughts of suicidal ideations.”

While the Foundation hopes to raise more money than this past year, Holderness said it is not the ultimate goal.

“Our goal is to raise awareness and destigmatize the use of the services,” Holderness said. “As such, if we raise some money alongside that, that’s fantastic. The fact that mental health services are such a human experience that all of us may need to utilize them, whether it be at K-State or beyond, we believe that any dollar amount will be a success. We try not to constrain our success to a goal associated with dollars or donors but instead to solve the problem itself.”

Holderness said the money raised would be placed in a fund managed by the Foundation and dispersed at the discretion of Kathleen Hatch, Morrison Family associate vice president for student well-being.

Hatch, who arrived at K-State in September 2021, said she is excited to see K-Staters helping each other.

“I’ve heard about the generosity of this Wildcat family and about how the alums here are number one in the conference in terms of gifting and giving back to the institution, which is really quite incredible when you think of some of the powerhouses in this Big 12 Conference,” Hatch said. “To me, it speaks to the character for wanting to care for one another.”

She said the fundraiser could have an impact on students’ day-to-day lives.

“I was meeting with a group of students not long ago and just asking, without even understanding the scale of one to ten, ‘How are we doing today?'” Hatch said. “And for anybody who’s at five or six, it’s ‘What can we do to architect even a six or seven?’ because that’s quite a shift even if it’s incrementally or just some momentary relief to some of the pressures.”

Hatch said one aspect she hopes more people become aware of is who uses mental health services.

“I think our emotional, mental well-being is often thought that it’s those who may be in clinical services,” Hatch said. “But today’s broader brush and impacts are that really high-performing, high-achieving, very successful students also need support.”

She said the fundraiser will have immediate impacts on students and might also help over the long term.

“This is a perfectly timed moment to infuse some money for direct and, hopefully, immediate impact for students by the fall and beyond,” Hatch said. “That theme of advancing our emotional and mental well-being is just exciting. The impacts could be huge. We could find ways to have new opportunities in the larger environment through ecotherapy.”

Kodee Walls, assistant director of Counseling and Psychological Services at K-State, said she hopes CAPS can invest in getting students connected with nature.

“Being an ag university, we know there’s a lot of amazing opportunities for us to connect with the academic side of the world to create this connection, not just with students who are taking a class around mental health,” Walls said, “but also students in treatment to interact with the outdoors and nature and planting and growing.”

She said it would be part of a well-rounded therapy program.

“We’re finding that wellness isn’t just specific pockets; it’s a whole experience,” Walls said. “Enhancing people’s awareness of the ecological impact of existence and finding that greater connection can, in a lot of ways, be really healing for people when they feel alone and isolated.”

Walls said CAPS would also invest in lower tier, less intense intervention services to help address students’ needs before they become larger problems.

Two of those services include Tao Connect, an app-based program Walls said students would be able to use to tap into their natural resilience and awareness when addressing depression and anxiety. Another is the Together All Community, where students can seek support from peers on the platform.

“Traditional therapy services are not as approachable and, then, by extension, under-utilized by historically excluded or underrepresented populations,” Walls said. “Together All is actually capturing a lot of those students.”

Walls said while the number of students seeking counseling services for the first time has increased across the country, there are still students who don’t know where to seek help. In addition, the growing demand for available staff has left students not getting their needs met.

“What you can expect to happen, often, is that when a student finally feels comfortable enough to reach out for help or they’re at a point that it’s bad enough that somebody else asks them to reach out for help, they’re met with a ‘We can’t see you right now, so try to come back,’ or ‘We’ll call you in potentially two to three weeks,'” Walls said.

With this fundraiser, Walls said K-State is a trailblazer in higher education to help solve the problem of overburdened mental healthcare systems. She said this also presents an opportunity for students to take ownership of positive change on campus.

“That has a direct impact not only, potentially on them, but it also then impacts the future class levels, and the graduate students who come in and the international students who are joining us,” Walls said. “It has those rippling effects that they can look back on and say explicitly, ‘I was part of that. I’m the reason why this was successful.'”

More information about “All In for K-State” and donating on March 23 is available through the “All In for K-State” website.