President Houshmand details plans to promote mental health services

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President Ali Houshmand listens to the Rowan community during a group discussion on December 9, 2019. - Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor / Kristin Guglietti

The Rowan community received an email from university President Ali Houshmand early Tuesday morning detailing the steps that the university is taking to build a stronger community after hearing from students, faculty and staff who voiced concerns about mental health services.

The email, with subject line “Promoting Well-Being throughout the Rowan Community,” explains current programs and new initiatives aimed to improve students’ mental health. These new initiatives come in the wake of a tragic semester in which Benjamin Deschesne, a sophomore music major, passed away over Thanksgiving break and another student fell from the parking garage.

According to the email, more than 400 employees have participated in or are registered for suicide prevention training sessions since the school began offering them at the beginning of the month. Sessions focus on Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) training.

Kevin Hines, a motivational speaker who survived jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, will visit Rowan on Feb. 24. According to the email, many departments plan on bringing more speakers, but specific names have not yet been given.

Another highlight is the addition of new counselors and access points.

“Although we are already at the high end of the range for national standards in the student-to-counselor ratio and adding more counselors alone will not address all the needs of our community, the Wellness Center is completing its search for three counselors who are expected to join our staff next month,” wrote Houshmand.

Rowan currently has 15 professional counselors, not including the three potential new hires. The student population at Rowan University is over 19,400 students. One counselor for over 1,000 students is still an alarming ratio, considering the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends one counselor to every 250 students. This concern was brought up during the open forum last month.

Along with additional staff, there will be new spaces on and off campus where students will be able to meet counselors. However, it has not been specified where these new spaces will be.

The Wellness Center will also be recruiting members from each college to serve as links with the Stress Management and Response Team (SMART). Together, they will give information and support from the Wellness Center to the community in order to help cope during stressful events.

There is also a new well-being application called BetterU that students and employees can access, however details on this new app will come later. In the meantime, individuals who prefer to seek help using technology are encouraged to use Therapy Assistance Online (TAO), a free digital tool.

According to the Wellness Center’s website, “TAO can be used anytime, anywhere since it’s an online and mobile resource. It’s free for the Rowan community. TAO can be helpful for those who are coping with: anxiety, depression, relationship struggles, pain management, addiction, stress, or for those who want to learn resiliency.”

In the email, Houshmand highlights three workshop dates at the Student Center Eynon Ballroom to continue community dialogue. The workshop dates are Feb. 7, March 6 and April 3 from 2-3:15 p.m.

“Well-being is multi-faceted, just as challenges to it can be complex,” Houshmand wrote. “It is important to understand there is no one solution to the mental health crisis we are facing as a nation, but together we can offer options and opportunities to help those struggling to cope, particularly in their time of need.”

Rowan will have its first suicide prevention training session for students on Feb. 5. Students can register through ProfLink. To request QPR training for a department or large group, those interested can email HCI@rowan.edu.

To share ideas and concerns, students are encouraged to email officeofthepresident@rowan.edu. For resources and services, contact the Wellness Center.

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