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Industry Experts Weigh in On Keeping College Students Happy and Safe

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Dr. Marina Nikhinson

Psychiatrist, The Retreat at Sheppard Pratt

“A focus on health and safety needs to be woven into college life from the minute students set foot on campus.”

How can we instill a culture of health and safety among students?

A focus on health and safety needs to be woven into college life from the minute students set foot on campus. Colleges should establish a culture of acceptance, ensuring students know that it is OK and normal to seek help. When we break down the stigma surrounding mental health, we make it possible for more people to access the help that they need.

Colleges can also offer Mental Health First Aid training as part of orientation. Just as critical as traditional First Aid, Mental Health First Aid ensures that individuals know how to help someone who is in crisis or may be experiencing the first signs of mental illness. It is also imperative that students have access to mental health resources, such as an on-campus clinic, so they can get help as early as possible. Colleges should work to make these resources as accessible as possible.

What advice would you give a student seeking guidance about a personal crisis?

Seek help early and often. Engage someone you trust and let that person be a resource to you. Whether it is a good friend, an academic advisor or a counselor at the mental health center, be open and honest about what you are experiencing, how you are feeling and what your needs are. Let that trusted person help you access the care and services that you need to tackle the crisis and move forward.

How can students use their campus community to empower one another to be mindful of the many risks to their safety and wellbeing on campus?

Join (or start) a campus chapter of a national mental health organization such as Active Minds. Use this organization as a platform for educating your peers about mental health and providing them with the tools they need to stay safe and healthy. Or, consider becoming a volunteer Peer Educator. Peer educators often participate in health fairs, staff information tables, publish newsletters, manage social media pages and give presentations on topics such as mental health and safety.

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Michael Su

Chief Social Entrepreneur & Co-Founder, iMaxAlarm, LLC

How can we instill a culture of health and safety among students? 

First and foremost, we must proactively create awareness about the most prevalent issues that are affecting students, using data and facts. That awareness coupled with on-going education on how to prevent or deal with these issues, plus understanding the what and why behind them will over time create a desired culture that fosters healthier and safer campuses.

What advice would you give a student seeking guidance about a personal crisis? 

One, having a support system is critical; talk to family or people you trust. The most important thing is to find anyone you feel comfortable to share your crisis with. Two, seek professional counseling. Most campuses provide excellent counseling to help its students. And three, speak to school administrators. Report your crisis; especially concerning rape, threats, abuse or violence, if appropriate.

How can students use their campus community to empower one another to be mindful of the many risks to their safety and wellbeing on campus? 

See something, share something. Be social. Deploy word of mouth. Use digital technology. Share any perceived health or safety dangers with your peers, utilizing social media. Empower each other with critical and relevant information, immediately. It’s always better to over share and be extra cautious when it comes to health and safety issues than be sorry later.  

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Szu-Hui Lee, Ph.D.

ABPP, Consulting Psychologist, Mountain Valley Treatment Center

How can we instill a culture of health and safety among students?

I believe the commitment to a culture of health and safety is made not only at the individual level but also at the organizational level. Schools’ commitment must be reflected in their mission statement which then guides polices, programming, and daily practice. When taking care of ourselves and each other becomes the norm of a school, it raises accountability and buy-in from all.

What advice would you give a student seeking guidance about a personal crisis?

When in doubt, reach out. When we are dealing with something difficult, the worst thing is to feel alone and believe we must manage the crisis by ourselves. Speaking with someone can help you process difficult emotions and generate ways to overcome the challenge you are facing. There are effective treatments out there and people who want to help. Together we can find ways to help you live a purposeful value-driven life.

How can students use their campus community to empower one another to be mindful of the many risks to their safety and wellbeing on campus?

It is all about making connections. One of the main protective factors of suicide is feeling connected with someone. Students must find ways to foster a sense of community within their dorms, classrooms, departments and campus at large. A sense of belonging is key to our wellbeing. As a member of a community, one must pay attention to what’s going on and take responsibility whenever necessary. Don’t be a bystander. If you notice someone isn’t doing well, say something, reach out, be an ally. If speaking up and caring for one another is modeled across campus, it gives permission and accountability for others to do the same.

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Tony Porter

CEO, A Call To Men

How can we instill a culture of health and safety among students?

We recognize that the underlying causes of violence and discrimination against women are rooted in the ways women and girls have been traditionally viewed and treated in our society. Far too often, boys are socialized to view girls as objects, as property and as having less value than men. Understanding and dismantling that foundation is the first step to instilling a culture of healthy manhood.

What advice would you give a student seeking guidance about a personal crisis? 

We want all students facing a personal crisis to know that we hear and believe them. Currently, only about 12 percent of women on college campuses report instances of sexual assault. The courageous voices of the #MeToo movement have ushered in a long overdue era of accountability, self-reflection and, we hope, healing.  We must extend that to college campuses and ensure all women are heard, believed and helped.

How can students use their campus community to empower one another to be mindful of the many risks to their safety and wellbeing on campus?

We want to see students boldly envision a campus culture where we prevent those risks.  By educating men and boys about healthy, respectful manhood, we will prevent dating violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, bullying and all forms of violence and discrimination.  Students can use our free LIVERESPECT on Campus Toolkit to create a campus culture of respect, equity and value for all. 

Staff, [email protected]

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