Rowan’s Wellness Center offers support after unexpected deaths of four students

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Following the unexpected deaths of three Rowan University students, exploratory studies major David Lin on Dec. 31, theatre major Ceara Regan on Jan. 9 and civil engineering major Tom Thornton on Jan. 11, the university sent a Rowan University Extra Edition to students on Jan. 18 with tips for coping with loss, as well as information for students that want to seek support through the school.

A fourth Rowan student, computing and informatics major David Brown, died on Jan. 23 while in the hospital, according to a Jan. 29 Rowan announcer. Brown’s funeral service will be held on Saturday, Feb. 2 at 10 am at Bibleway Baptist Church in Philadelphia.

Regan’s cause of death was the only released publicly thus far, stated in her obituary as cardiac arrhythmia due to a congenital heart defect.

The initial Jan. 18 Extra Edition email provided five important bits of information for students to remember while working to understand their feelings during what could be considered a difficult time.

“There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to feel or respond to an unexpected death,” the email stated.

The email also went on to explain and list the different feelings that one may experience, including “shock, disbelief, sadness, anger, guilt, difficulty concentrating or worry about your own well-being or that of others close to you,” as well as other physical changes mourners may experience.

The email also emphasized the importance of returning to a “normal routine” or to complete small tasks like running an errand. The email also said to try to talk to someone about how you feel and think. By talking to someone who understands how you feel, it may help with the grieving process and can help heal. It also said to try other activities such as mediation or exercise as a means of managing feelings and relieving stress.

“Avoid the use of drugs or alcohol to ‘numb out’ or change your mood,” the email stated. “While this can sometimes provide some short term relief, it has been shown to both prolong and intensity reactions in the long-term.”

Use exercise, meditation or deep breathing to manage strong feelings and relieve stress.

The end of the email provided information for where students can access counseling and support and urges students to reach out to speak with a counselor “if you notice that your response to these losses or any other is so distressing that it interferes with your ability to engage in basic self-care or manage significant priorities.”

According to the Vice President for Health and Wellness at Rowan David Rubenstein, the Wellness Center is implementing more ways for students to receive the help they are seeking.

“New this year, we put in place three crisis counselors available to students when they walk in to Counseling and Psychological Services, and we are going to continue this same staffing access this spring semester when students return…,” Rubenstein said. “These counselors will be available to students who walk in and are coping with these loses, among other issues.”

In addition to access to counselors, the Wellness Center also provides over 70 programs, including a number of groups such as Grief Group, Anxiety Group and Interpersonal Group.

“Our healthcare staff has grown significantly with increasing enrollment,” Rubenstein added. “Student Health Services has also grown significantly, adding a full-time supervising physician this past summer, and this last year, an additional nurse practitioner, all allowing for increased student access to healthcare services. Healthy Campus Initiatives also added an additional full-time health educator, allowing for increased health and wellness promotion programming available to students.”

To speak with a counselor, call the Wellness Center at (856) 256-4333 or after business hours, the on-call counselor can be reached by calling Public Safety at (856) 256-4911. To see a list of groups provided through the Wellness Center, visit https://rowan.campuslabs.com/engage/organization/wellness/events.

Additional reporting by Joe Gramigna.

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