Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My latest post to admin about mental health issues

16 September 2014
Dear Vice Chancellor for Students:

I'm writing to follow up on my emails of last week about the aftermath of a student's tragic death on campus. I'm hoping that you've met with the head of the counseling center to brainstorm a way to make more information available to faculty and to students. What you term the "wonderful resource" of the counseling center is not wonderful unless students know it's there. Here are some suggestions I've come up with:
--I've been told that professors of the student were informed of his death the next morning and told to let students know about counseling. But many of us who were not his professor had students who were, and probably remain, traumatized by the event of last Tuesday. We are informed about stolen bikes and sexual assaults, so why are we not informed of sudden deaths on campus?
--One of my students said that those most deeply affected were told by the counseling center that they would have to wait for an appointment. She added that her parents had called the center to ask for more immediate help. In the event of such a tragedy, allow for walk-ins. And do more than put a notice in _Ka Leo_ two days later, on-line, to say that counseling is available. (I was glad at least to see it there, but my students say they don't read the student newspaper.)

--When a tragic death happens in the dorms, send counselors to the dorms rather than waiting for students to find the counseling center on campus.
--Put up lots of flyers all over campus to alert students to the existence and location of the center.
--Given that there are protocols about privacy, such knowledge could be disseminated without assigning a cause of death or injury. In any case, hard to keep that knowledge from students who saw the event or heard about it from their friends.
--Do more open education about depression and other mental illnesses and address the problem of suicide by publicizing ways to prevent it, rather than simply hiding from public view. I don't know if this young man's death was an accident or suicide, but there have been many suicides on and off campus over the years. I'm told that one person dies by suicide every two days in Hawai`i. Hiding the problem certainly isn't fixing it.
When I spoke to Dr. X last week, she said there would be meeting on Monday at which she'd bring this issue up. The only response I got to my email to your office was one with no human signature. I would appreciate hearing more from you in person. And I would be happy to come to your office to talk, as well.
aloha, Susan

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