Task force aims to raise awareness and destigmatize mental illness within the Indiana State community.
Striving to strengthen mental wellness on-campus and beyond, Indiana State University is making sure students, staff and the community know it’s OK to ask for help and if they do, where they can go.
Earlier this year, Jack Turman Jr., dean of Indiana State’s College of Nursing, Health and Human Services, developed a mental wellness task force to partner with the Hamilton Center in Terre Haute to address and destigmatize mental illness.
The partnership is focused on mental wellness, especially for faculty, staff and the community, since student mental health is being dealt with at the Student Counseling Center, which has a wide range of mental health services students.
“We see the task force as helping these other service delivery groups by promoting mental wellness,” Turman said. “It’s important that people talk about mental illness and destigmatize it, so anyone who is stressed or anxious knows they can get help and not be stigmatized. There is no guilt or fault in needing help, and we want people to know that they can go get help and benefit.”
Just off the elevator on the seventh floor of the Hulman Memorial Student Union, students can access a variety of mental health services through the ISU Student Counseling Center, including: individual, couples and group counseling; testing and assessment for learning disabilities and personality concerns; psychiatric evaluations and medication management; alcohol and marijuana education classes; consultation with faculty, staff, parents and students; crisis management; clinical management; clinical training for new psychologists and counselors; medical withdrawal consultation; and outreach presentations aside from student health promotion.
“There’s a recognition now that approximately one out of every four adults, ages 18-24, has some type of mental health condition,” said Dr. Ken Chew, director at the ISU Student Counseling Center. “I wouldn’t say there are more issues because people have had issues for a long time, but it’s becoming more accepted by the public for people to seek help.”
During the 2013-14 academic year, the counseling center had more than 6,000 appointments and saw more than 660 students, a majority of whom were freshmen (38.5 percent), although the center can see any student who is enrolled in classes at Indiana State, except university employees.
There’s been an uptick in mental health issues with college students across America, but Turman said the reason why is unclear.
“We have a better understanding that mental illness is linked to other health problems, so it’s time we start dealing with it and letting people know it’s OK to talk about and seek treatment, as opposed to letting it fester,” he said.
The rise of the use of technology seems to play a role in people’s inability to cope, noted Trista Gibbons, associate director at the counseling center.
“It makes it easier for people to avoid real relationships and communicating with each other, which causes a lot of problems between people and causes the inability to relate to others,” she said. “Luckily, as a counseling center, we’re usually able to help students before issues get to be a big problem and students value the face-to-face contact they get here as we help them through their problems.”
It’s a goal of the task force, Turman said, to increase public awareness around mental health and provide people with concrete promotion around the topic, strategies for maintaining good mental health, discussion of warning signs and publicizing where to go for help.
“If people have a cold or intense pain, they know to go to the ER or see a doctor. But if they have a mental health crisis, they’re often scared and don’t know where to go,” Turman said. “It never hurts to remind people about the (mental health) services we offer on campus.”
While a vast majority of people suffering from mental health issues pose absolutely no danger to the public, Chew said there are individuals who are more isolated or dealing with other issues that could lead them to act out.
“The problem the nation faces is how to identify individuals who are more likely to act out. Mental health can play a role, but it’s not the only thing,” he said.
The counseling center’s staff, which includes six full-time staff members, 10 graduate students, one undergraduate student and a licensed psychiatrist work to build a strong presence by attending on-campus events and doing classroom presentations to talk about their services that students begin seeking from the time they move on campus in the fall.
“It used to be that our busy seasons were between the end of September until Thanksgiving break and from Valentine’s Day until spring break, but in recent years, that’s picked up. Now, we’re busy seeing students from the time school starts until it ends,” Chew said.
Students who come to the counseling center for their first time are matched with the best counselor to fit their needs and an initial appointment usually runs around 30 minutes, depending on a student’s needs.
After the first session, which is free, a one-time, $60 fee is assessed. Compared to the $30-$140 an hour similar services would cost off-campus, the counseling center’s services are affordable and more accessible for Indiana State students.
The counseling center serves as an advocate for students, but in case they need a little reassurance, Chew reminds students, “Once you get off the elevator, everyone on the floor is here for the same reason and have no reason to judge. It’s better to deal with problems as they come up because it’s more likely to lead to positive outcomes.”
When it comes to mental health services, Indiana State’s reach goes beyond campus at the counseling clinic that is housed in University Hall. The clinic, which is part of the Master’s Mental Health Counseling program in the Department of Communication Disorders and Counseling, School and Educational Psychology, provides Indiana State students with firsthand experience working with community members while being supervised by licensed professionals.
The community can also seek services at the Psychology Clinic, housed in Root Hall, where students are exposed to cases in the first year of the psychology doctoral program, as they follow and sit-in on group supervisions. In their second year, students begin working in the clinic and receive a caseload that could involve children, adults or couples.
Students continue working in the clinic in their third year of the program, while also getting experience working in Terre Haute and surrounding areas. By the fourth year in the program, students begin working in settings outside the clinic and continue peer supervision.
Last year, the clinic had 180 new in addition to its 44 existing clients. Indiana State’s employee assistance program allows university employees and their dependents to receive six free counseling services at the Psychology Clinic, or they can opt to go off-campus provider and receive up to the first three visits paid for.
There are about 15 doctoral students at a time receiving in-house training, which allows them to pick up a wide variety of cases and do individual therapy, assess most clients and provide them treatment from beginning to end, said Rebecca Murray, director of the Psychology Clinic.
Doctoral students in the clinic are supervised by licensed psychologists, and advanced students provide peer supervision while first-year students sit-in on group supervisions.
“Our number one purpose for being here is to get our students in-house training, working in the clinic during their second and third years in the program, and to start off in your own in-house training clinic means a very high quality of supervision and training,” Murray said. “The secondary benefit is that we’re serving the community at a low cost because we work on a sliding scale, so we’re really serving a population that might otherwise find it difficult to get services.”