It’s no secret that students are more successful academically when they feel healthy, safe, supported, connected, welcomed and valued. While the staff, programs and services of the Division of Student Affairs are here solely for this purpose, each and every one of you plays an important role in helping our students succeed. As the new academic year begins, let’s talk about what we can do collectively and the campus resources we offer.
Nationally, we know that students are entering colleges and universities with increased mental health disorders, especially in the areas of anxiety, depression, trauma, eating disorders and substance use. Research shows that the top ten reported reasons for poor academic performance are often related to psychological issues. National studies show that approximately 10 percent of college students have been diagnosed with depression and about the same percentage with anxiety. We also know based on national and campus data that substance use is on the rise. We are working hard to address all of these issues for our students.
This year Counseling and Psychological Services received additional funding from the provost to hire four new counselors to help serve our students more effectively. As a result of these hires, students can now participate in counseling in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Hindi and Urdu. A program called CAPS Now ensures that all students with urgent matters are seen immediately by a counselor.
CAPS also offers additional counseling locations at SPEA and the Jacobs School of Music, as well as in several of the cultural centers, through its Let’s Talk multicultural program. On-site counselors at these alternate locations serve two purposes: to provide easier access to CAPS staff and to reduce stigma.
As pop culture works to end the stigma of mental illness, it’s still clear that many believe depression and other mental health-related disorders aren’t as important to treat as physical illnesses are. If a student breaks her arm, she sees a doctor. If students are struggling with depression, they need help as well. Together we can help students seek the excellent campus resources we have to help them.
While the Dean of Students Office has always had a process for helping students, it has now been formalized into an official Care Team, which meets weekly to talk about students in distress. Distress can include mental health concerns, family incidents or other behaviors that cause us to worry about a student’s well-being.
Each week, the Care Team meets to determine the best strategies for helping these students access the services they need to be successful. If you are concerned about a student, please contact the Dean of Students Office at 812-855-8187 or submit this information online. There is also a dean on call 24/7 to assist students in crisis situations.
Another important topic for college campuses is sexual misconduct and sexual assault. A new Office for Sexual Assault Prevention and Victim Advocacy combines existing campus resources into one unit and one physical location at 506 N. Fess Ave. Students who experience sexual assault, harassment, relationship violence, stalking or other threats to their personal safety can contact the office’s confidential victim advocates. The advocates listen to victims and provide options and resources, including academic support and referrals for counseling.
The office will also work closely with CAPS sexual assault counselors, the OASIS Alcohol and Drug Support Center, and IU Health Center’s Health and Wellness team in its prevention efforts.
A new first-year student workshop led by the Office for Sexual Assault Prevention and Victim Advocacy, called It’s On Us: Alcohol and Consent, will educate students on consent, alcohol use and bystander intervention. This program will clarify the university’s definition of consent for engaging in sexual activity, the impact of alcohol and drugs on someone’s ability to give consent, and the skills needed to step in and help prevent sexual violence. We also educated parents on these same topics during new student orientation.
We continue to provide support to students who report any bias incidents based on their identity, whether gender, racial, sexual, religious or cultural. The Dean of Students Office has a web page where students can report incidents. Those providing contact information will receive support and next steps for addressing the bias. Anonymous reports are welcome as well.
The Division of Student Affairs provides many programs and services to help students succeed at Indiana University. While this piece focused on the difficult and unfortunate situations some students experience, please be aware that we also offer programs focusing on involvement, leadership development, advocacy, civic engagement, and diversity and inclusion.
Like you, I want our students to have the best experience possible at Indiana University. When they need some extra assistance, please assure them that we are here to help in any way possible. Please contact me if we can be of assistance to you in supporting our students.
Lori Reesor is the vice provost for student affairs and dean of students.