This article is part of the Mental Health Collaborative, a project completed by nine North Carolina college newsrooms to cover mental health issues in their communities. To read more stories about mental health, explore the interactive project developed specifically for this collaborative.

Elon officials noticed there were different programs dedicated to students' well-being for years, but they were all scattered across campus, Elon University Dean of Students Jana Lynn Patterson said.

In August 2022, the University launched HealthEU, Elon University’s health and wellness initiative, to organize those already existing organizations, but also promote them to students. Patterson said HealthEU is not only for students to take advantage of, but also for faculty and staff. 

“Good health and well-being is not about a segregated approach,” Patterson, who is the co-chair of the HealthEU council, said. “It’s about an integrated approach.”

The initiative consists of six pillars: community, emotional, physical, financial, purpose and social well-being. Patterson said all of these pillars are interconnected and centralized. 

Patterson said the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the formation of HealthEU, but it also helped highlight areas that the initiative needed to work on. For example, Patterson said TimelyCare, Elon’s 24/7 virtual health services for students, was created as a response to students needing immediate care no matter the time of day.

Patterson added that HealthEU has plans to open up a new wellness center after this past year of generally positive feedback from the community. Currently, the counselors are stationed on the south side of campus, which can be a long trek for students to get access to. 

“The new wellness center allows us to bring mental health services back to the heart of campus,” Patterson said. 

Patterson said it will free up some room in Ellington Center for Health and Wellness, where the current health and wellness center is, because they would move counselors to this new building. It will also offer more space for physical wellness and well-being around campus. 

In a Jan. 30 email, Elon President Connie Book said Elon’s tuition for the 2024-25 academic year will increase by 4.96% due to academic opportunities and the new wellness center. Patterson said they don’t have the final designs for the center yet, but she is excited to expand the brand of HealthEU.

The HealthEU council includes faculty and staff from various departments around Elon’s campus. 

“I think we’re beginning to get more traction on this sense of financial well-being,” Patterson said. 

Finance professor Chris Harris is not only on the council, but also chair of the finance department and director of the center of financial literacy. Before HealthEU was formed, Harris focused on helping students create positive financial well-being for nine years with Elon’s Odyssey program, a merit- and need-based scholarship program. 

“I’ve worked in the investment world. I have the experience,” Harris said. “I feel like I can show up and try to help people who were me 20 years ago.”

Harris said the University’s financial literacy center existed before HealthEU, but the initiative has helped make people more aware of the center. In 2023, he hosted about 40 events relating to financial literacy and well-being, which hundreds of people were able to attend. 

“Research shows that poor financial wellness then leads to poor emotional, physical health —  like it has these impacts that go beyond just thinking about money,” Harris said. 

Patterson said financial well-being is something the school hadn’t talked about until recent years, but she finds it important because this could be advice that students can carry after graduation.  

“I think it’s really important for students to get their finances in order,” Harris said. “It’s even more stressful for someone when they’re going to feel broke, and now they have a family and mortgage.”

Harris said he has read research that shows that financial well-being impacts the quality of people’s relationships with others, mental health and stress levels. He said Elon provides a unique opportunity to start learning about financial literacy in a safe space. 

Harris said going forward he wants to continue reaching more students. He is currently working with some students to create more of an online presence for the center of financial literacy. 

“We want to be able to reach as many people as possible, help people feel happier about their finances,” Harris said.