Bob Moeller

UC Irvine history professor Bob Moeller is doing what few of his faculty peers are willing to do: talking openly about depression and acute anxiety, and the therapy that helped him deal with the challenges these conditions present.

He is willing to tell his story, and has spoken candidly about his experience for an employee video on mental health. In addition, he helped form a task force of campus leaders — the first of its kind at UC Irvine — to broaden understanding of mental health issues and identify ways to help students, faculty and staff.

“I would like to work at a place where I can talk about mental health as easily as we talk about lower back pain,” Moeller said. “Mental health is not an issue that is limited to the student counseling center. It also affects faculty and staff, and it affects the interactions among faculty, staff and students.”

Moeller is helping to lift the veil on depression and the people it affects.

Sharing his personal journey is making a difference. Colleagues approach Moeller privately to talk about their own experiences with depression. They find comfort in someone who understands what they’re going through and who won’t judge them for it.

Mental health must become part of the dialogue for everyone in order to increase understanding, reduce the stigma and get people the help they need. But Moeller said faculty in particular is a challenging segment.

“The thing we’ve encountered again and again, is that faculty is the group that’s most difficult to engage in the discussion about depression,” Moeller said. “Avoidance is widespread.”

Hoping to confront the issue, Moeller and a colleague launched the Mental Health Initiative 13 years ago to tackle how to better serve the campus community. The 26-member ad hoc committee consists of faculty, staff, students, mental health providers, human resources experts and the police chief, and reports directly to the executive vice chancellor and provost.

The MHI has advocated for campus-wide assessments, improved services at the student counseling center, handouts to help faculty identify and assist troubled students, additional training for police officers on how to handle mental health issues and other advancements. This year, a grant will allow the UC Irvine Counseling Center to hire an individual whose charge specifically includes faculty-to-faculty outreach. The MHI will support this project.

Laurie Lucas, who has been a task force member for about 10 years and a co-chair for several of those years, applauds the creativity, commitment and focus Moeller brings to the MHI, even in the face of limited funding.

“Bob’s tireless passion, resilience and leadership has been a cornerstone of the Mental Health Task Force and all efforts to provide education and resources for those who suffer from depression and mental disorders,” said Lucas, manager of the employee assistance program at the UC Irvine Medical Center.

“Perhaps Bob’s greatest contribution has been to elevate the need for an organizational awareness that serves individual and organizational needs as we strive for a healthy and safe environment,” Lucas added.

A lot more work needs to be done to open the dialogue about mental health both at UC Irvine and across the UC system, Moeller said. He is pushing for mental health awareness days that are promoted by campus leaders, and mental health education similar to sexual harassment training that employees take regularly.

More emphasis must be placed on prevention and getting people help early before the problem reaches a crisis stage, he adds.

“I want UC to be a caring community in which all of us are given the support we need to do effectively the jobs we were hired to do,” Moeller said.

Help When You Wand and Need It

  • Employee Assistance Programs offer free and confidential counseling services. Find your campus EAP office here.
  • Faculty and Staff Wellness Programs
    Learn more about the UC Living Well initiative and your location Faculty and Staff Wellness Program at Click on "campus programs" to find programs and resources at your location.
  • United Behavioral Health Services (now Optum) will refer you for counseling services to a local provider. The first three appointments with a network provider are free of charge: 888-440-8225 or visit the website (use access code 11280).

This article is part of UC's yearlong series to raise awareness about workplace stress and depression.