Hanson Hall

Taking Care of Mental Health: A Q&A with the Carlson School’s New Wellness Counselor

Friday, December 17, 2021

Anxiety and depression in college-aged students is a major problem across the country. At the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, 42.2 percent of students in 2020-21 reported being diagnosed with at least one mental health condition within their lifetime. 

Maureen Maslinski

Mental health support is provided in many ways, including by an in-house counselor at the Carlson School. That position started in 2018 and was one of the first at a U.S. business school.

The inaugural counselor, Donna Kulakowski, retired recently and Maureen Maslinksi has taken over. Maslinski, who started in October 2021, wants to help destigmatize students getting help for their mental health and be a resource and support system for the school’s undergraduate students.

We talked to Maslinski, who was in private practice as an outpatient therapist and was an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas, about her role thus far and what lies ahead.

Q. What about the position or working at the Carlson School intrigued you?

I've always enjoyed working with this age. This job in particular stuck out as something where I'd be able to do individual counseling, outreach and education, and mental health support. I really like the idea of having a mental health person right in the school to be able to have easier access and to be able to help support students, staff, and faculty. So it intrigued me to be able to have an impact on the mental health of students

Q. What is it about working with this age group that you enjoy? 

I started my career working with teenagers, and I liked that because of how much change happens in your teenage years. Then gradually, over time, this young adulthood age became even more exciting to work with because there are just so many different pieces of identity that get explored, whether it's related to racial identity, adoption, sexual identity, gender. It's a time in our lives where we start to explore ourselves and work on ourselves.

I think it’s a very important time to have support. Because sometimes mental illness can show itself more at that age.

Q. What are some mental health challenges that college students are more likely to face than others?

I think there are a couple of things. One is trauma. We know that college-age students are one of the populations most at risk for experiencing a traumatic event. Secondly, 75% of those who have a mental health disorder will have their first onset by age 25.  Third, college students have significant stressors as they balance becoming independent from families, new social situations, increase in workload, and other life stressors.  

This is also a time when young people can do some of the work around their mental health because they can seek that out on their own if, for instance, their parents possibly struggled with the stigma around that or didn’t understand how to help them.

Q. You mentioned the stigma around getting help for your mental health. Is that something we still see? And if so, how do you plan to address that in your role?

Yeah. I think it’s come a long way since I started in the field. Young people now see it as much more socially acceptable to seek counseling and it’s much more talked about. Even the fact that this position exists shows there’s more of an awareness and less of a stigma around it. 

But at other times, some people don’t really understand what mental illness or mental health is about. They don’t think they need to see a counselor and that they’ll just figure it out on their own. That there is a weakness to seeing someone for help. So, I think it’s much better, but it’s still there.

In this position, I’m hoping to be able to normalize the need for mental health, and that to care for your mental health is one of the components of health. We take care of our physical health, we take care of our spiritual health, and we need to take care of our emotional health as well.

Undergraduate students who are interested in meeting with Maslinski can schedule an appointment with her through the University’s Student Counseling Services. They can be reached at 612-624-3323 or counseling@umn.edu. Staff and faculty interested in consulting with Maslinski about mental health/emotional wellness can reach her at masli032@umn.edu.  Students can also reach out to her email for questions about how to get started or about how to find or access mental health resources on and off-campus.