Representatives from the Wellness Center hosted a gathering in the Chamberlain Student Center to provide support and resources for coping following the fall of a student from the Rowan Boulevard parking garage on Thursday afternoon.
As of the start of the meeting, the student is still in critical condition at Cooper University Hospital.
An exasperated student body raised a multitude of concerns ranging from the widely-held perception of wait times for services, lack of understanding about Wellness Center programs and the need for solutions to issues seen in the handling of mental health in the Rowan community.
Student perceptions about Wellness Center policies don’t match reality, according to staff. A longtime rumor about waiting lists for counseling services persists despite policy changes. Director of the Wellness Center Scott Woodside and assistant director Amy Hoch, pushed back on the idea.
“We don’t have a wait time, but the wait to be seen [for an initial consultation] is a few days right now,” Woodside said.
The process for receiving help from the Wellness Center begins with an initial consultation with a counselor. The counselor recommends treatment based on each student’s individual needs. Suggested treatments may include individual therapy, group therapy or outside therapy, but the suggestion is individualized based on the counselor’s professional opinion.
The Wellness Center currently has 15 professional counselors and are hoping to hire three more by late January.
“The message that we definitely want to get out today right now, because we’ve seen some of the messages on social media, is [that] if a student needs help immediately, it’s there,” Woodside said. “Please remember that. 24/7. Please.”
The Wellness Center faculty also stressed the number of programs available to students. Many students in the congregation were unaware of the programs offered, possibly due to the fact that the Wellness Center has no marketing team. The Wellness Center is looking to partner with the College of Communications and Creative Arts to hire student interns to help raise awareness of these programs.
The Therapy Assistance Online (TAO) is one of these many underused programs. TAO is a program that provides free help for Rowan students that can assist with everyday stressors and struggles, which can be used at anytime. There is also a program known as Rowan THRIVE, which aims to help students “build a life of purpose, resilience, and engagement.”
The Rowan EMS also offers a free transportation service to any doctor’s appointment within a 15-mile radius of the campus. To take part in this service, students should contact EMS at least 24 hours in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Our goal is to engage students, faculty and staff to embrace the concepts of well-being,” Woodside said. “To put it into practice, to react to it, to talk about it, so that we get to the point where students can be addressed before they get to the point of them struggling.”
As students searched for answers, the conversation pivoted to ideas of community and social connection. The need for students and faculty to check on their fellow Rowan community members was stressed at several points during the forum.
“Social connection is the best predictor of keeping people alive,” Hoch said. “You could be a gate-keeper and someone who has great importance to your friend, to your friend group, to someone in your living situation that if you just do a check-in with someone, if you think someone is feeling sad or upset about something, ‘how are you doing’ that makes a huge difference.”
“I think the main problem is getting people who feel that way help,” said Ahmíd Hopkins, freshman music composition major. “Getting them to want to help themselves because there are so many resources and if they’re not being utilized they’re a waste of money and time and effort.”
“I think we actually need to think innovatively about where the sources of these problems are coming from,” said a faculty member who attended the discussion. “…my students [are] working 30 and 40 hours a week, that makes me angry. It makes me angry for them. It makes me sad for them. It is insane. A student’s job is to be a student.”
Assistant Vice President of Public Safety Michael Kantner also outlined changes the Department of Public Safety is in the process of implementing in order to prevent additional tragedies at the Rowan Boulevard parking garage. These changes include making modifications to the parking garages and bringing in more guards to monitor these locations. Kantner emphasized the importance of calling Public Safety anytime anything seems suspicious.
“If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate,” Kantner said. “You’d rather make that call and that person or persons get the services that we can help provide for them.”
Woodside spoke about supporting each other in these tough times and coming together as a community to help heal.
RU a Lifesaver has a Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) training program that can help students know the signs of someone struggling with their mental health.
According to data from the American College Health Association (ACHA), cited a Verywell Mind article updated last month, “the suicide rate among young adults ages 15-24 has tripled since the 1950s, and suicide is currently the second most common cause of death among college students.”
Several people from the LGBTQ+ community attended the gathering, as well, including an e-board member from Prism. Many members of the community brought up LGBTQ+ issues, such as professors not using students’ preferred pronouns or chosen names.
“I’m looking around the room, I advise you to look around the room too.” Woodside said. “A lot of people in here are hurting. A lot of people in here have been supporting our campus all day long.”
President Ali Houshmand wasn’t in attendance at the meeting because he was comforting the family of the student at the time.
Reporting for this article was conducted by Gabrielle Giacomelli, Kristin Guglietti, Christopher Connors and Kalie VanDewater.
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