Mental health: bridging the gap

By: Brittany Rosso and Ava Mrozik

NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – In a world where core mental health issues are rising each and every day, it is crucial for the Niagara University community to consider beyond the basics of mental health awareness and investigate what can further be done. NU must not only address the basic ways to identify illness, but encourage assistance and first aid training across college campuses, especially our own.

A common issue in universities across the country has been recognized between faculty, students and counseling services when it comes to mental health. However, professors are often considered an important part of the first step in getting students on a path to assistance- they are the ones interacting with students on a daily basis. We must identify the growing gap and further consider how it affects life here at Niagara University. We must also consider how we can develop a connection between faculty and students – one that allows for better understanding of mental health warning signs, help methods and first aid treatment. 

In an interview with Dr. Timothy Ireland, NU’s Provost, he mentioned previous and recent efforts made by NU to better develop an understanding of mental health issues, warning signs and how to get students the specific help they need.

In 2015, several members of the NU community participated in hosting “Changing Our Minds: A Mental Health Summit” at the Castellani Art Museum. Some of these participants included Ireland, Dr. Tim Osberg, WGRZ-TV News Anchor and Reporter Maryalice Demler, retired Rochester Police Department Sergeant Eric Weaver, Father Jim Maher, Senator Robert Ortt and previous NU Counseling Services Director Dr. Monica Romeo. This event had over 200 attendees from NU and WNY communities, who had the opportunity to learn about the signs of mental illness and ways to support someone in the helping system while fighting the stigma. Soon after, “Changing Our Minds” became available online to faculty. NU is working to ensure that “Changing Our Minds'” online program is available to all students, faculty and staff.

NU is also currently working with Compeer, an organization that provides mental health first-aid training courses, reaching over 2,200 people across WNY. This eight-hour mental health first-aid course teaches how to recognize, respond and understand the signs of mental illness and substance abuse disorders. Compeer will be coming to NU to train several sectors on campus including residence life and student affairs.

Ireland mentioned that one goal of NU in working with Compeer is to offer the training to all faculty and staff to encourage participation. Ireland also expressed great interest in working to implement it at the new-hire stage.

NU has three counselors and are currently in the hiring process with a fourth counselor to help provide as many available open slots and appointments for students to come and discuss their struggles.

Chris Sheffield, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, wants to make students aware that if they’re not comfortable with using Counseling Services on campus, there are outside resources that they can be directed to as well.  For the students who are not aware, the Counseling Services are located in the basement of Seton Hall. NU’s Counseling Service department provides both options for appointments and open time slots, allowing for those who need to immediately address issues they are dealing with.

For more information on Counseling Services, all students are encouraged to visit the Counseling webpage at www.niagara.edu/counseling.

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