‘What helps a student succeed?’ … We have to worry about that
whole student, and not just a piece of the student.”
Harper College in Palatine, Illinois, with 15,000 students and a
graduation rate of 21 percent rate, has a psychologist on campus
who also is a faculty member and o;ers services Monday through
Friday into the early evening. The college also has relationships
with community agencies.
The psychological services, which are free, are primarily aimed
at those with at least six class hours, although they will see anyone
who is in crisis, says Laura Bennett, student conduct o;cer and
Title IX co-coordinator.
“That poses challenges because it’s nice to have it accessible to
everyone, but there may be a waiting period for appointments,”
Massachusetts Bay Community College in Middlesex County has
two full-time counseling sta; for a total student population of 5,500
on three campuses. They have focused their energies on drug and
alcohol education, suicide prevention programs and outreach to
veterans, who have a dedicated space on campus, says Jon Edwards,
director of counseling services.
“It’s been on my agenda to step it up,” he says. “I want faculty
and sta; to feel comfortable approaching students who seem to
be distressed.” Sometimes students will share such concerns in
an essay assignment, for example, or they want to take faculty
into confidence for a conversation after class. “We want faculty to
understand that not every conversation is going to be confidential,
if they’re concerned about the student’s well-being,” Edwards adds.
At Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, Massachusetts,
Lisa Mattila, personal counselor and a licensed mental health
clinician, has an o;ce within a student development center that
also contains career counseling, transfer counseling and disability services. Mattila says she sees 100 to 150 students per semester,
ranging from ongoing counseling to short-term periods sometimes
followed by a referral.
Ozarks Technical Community College in Missouri likely sees
more students every year who access the mental health services,
provided by one full-time and three part-time counselors for a student body of 12,000, says Joyce Bateman, assistant dean of students.
She believes the lessening of stigma has encouraged more to come
forward and also believes Ozarks has done a better job of advertising over the years.
“Students are coming to us with more severe, previously undiagnosed mental health issues,” she says. “The good news is that our
schools, our community college, has kept counseling services—they
have not outsourced.” However, sta;ng has stayed the same.
While colleges often respond to incidents like shootings with
investments like blue-light phones on campus, these are merely
reactive crisis responses, Van Brunt says. Other, more preventative ideas including making services available beyond the
traditional 9-to- 5 window so non-traditional students can access
them and creating behavioral assessment teams like his organization supports, he says.
BEHAVIORAL ASSESSMENT TEAMS
NaBITA provides training on two fronts: how to manage the
classroom when students are unmotivated or showing a lack
of respect, and how to mitigate and calm the situation if someone presents a threat and is out of control, Van Brunt says.
“Many professors are adjuncts and they never had training
in how to manage a class, in the art and science of it,” he says.
And after calming a crisis, “we move forward to reporting that
information not just to police. There’s a hesitancy to do that
because they don’t want the student to get into trouble, but
Behavioral intervention teams provide a preventative
approach, Van Brunt says. “We set up a broad triage and teach
faculty that anytime you’re concerned about something,
report it,” he says. “If a student says they have a gun and are
going to shoot someone, obviously those services involve a
quick call to the police. But if you notice distress or disruptive
behavior, we’re teaching people to pay attention.”
Connecticut is in the process of contracting with NaBITA to
do systemwide training, Ebbeling says. “The initial problem is
making sure people know what behaviors they’re looking for, who
else they need to contact, and when and why and how,” he says.
“And then a more intensive focus on what are some of the ways in
which we can go beyond identification, … get them referred prop-
Such trainings can include role-playing scenarios, although
every scenario is necessarily di;erent and poses challenges you
might not expect, Ebbeling says. “Sometimes it’s really challenging
to determine the di;erence between odd behavior and threaten-
ing behavior,” he says. “We need to build a full context around the
student to determine what kind of intervention they need, if any.”
The initial problem is making sure people know what behaviors they’re
looking for, who else they need to contact, and when and why and how.
Jason Ebbeling, executivedirector, Connecticut State Collegesand Universities Student Success Center