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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Dean’s panel looks to help distressed students

    How to identify a student who is mentally or emotionally distressed was the topic of a panel discussion held yesterday by the Dean of Students Office.

    A panel of experts representing the Dean of Students Office, Counseling and Psychological Services, Life and Work Connections, the University of Arizona Police Department and the University Attorney’s Office, led a discussion about issues related to distressed students and what the university can and should do to help them and protect the campus.

    The panel was held at the Student Union Memorial Center in the Kiva Room.

    Veda Kowalski, assistant dean of students, said the purpose of the discussion was to add the greater community to the team of people already addressing the issues of distressed students.

    The group reviewed signs and symptoms of distressed students and how to respond with methods of intervention if faculty, advisors and staff are working with such students.

    “”We want to establish what the early warning signs are,”” Kowalski said.

    Marian Binder, director of Counseling and Psychological Services, said behavior changes and academic warning signs should tip off people working with students, and should be used to initiate a dialogue and educate the student on the boundaries of what is acceptable.

    One of the things discussed was the difference between mental health and behavioral issues.

    “”It’s about what they’re doing and what they’re saying,”” Kowalski said.

    “”We try to educate people on the other side on the impact of their behavior,”” Binder said. “”Its not always a clear-cut case.””

    They also discussed what happens in the case of an emergency similar to Virginia Tech.

    “”There’s not a simple answer,”” said

    Anthony Daykin, chief of police for UAPD. “”The root of the answer is knowing these things ahead of time (and) what needs to be considered.””

    Daykin said his goal was to have better campus-wide education on emergency response.

    “”An important part of this is knowing there are people to report this (suspicious behavior) to,”” Daykin said. “”You don’t have to be the decision maker, there are other people that can be involved.””

    Kowalski said there is a process for disciplinary action to be brought against students who may pose a threat to the school.

    “”It starts with you reporting and reporting early,”” Kowalski said.

    The UA has a mandatory reporting policy for all threats heard on campus, she said.

    Several members of the audience brought up issues of when they were unsure of what to do in certain situations with a student.

    Melissa Vito, vice president student affairs, said there is a subgroup working on a campus-wide plan that will train everyone from gatekeepers to high administration on what to do in a crisis.

    She said right now things are not well coordinated at the moment, but they plan to package differently the security already in place.

    “”The dilemma is to protect privacy and provide a safe community,”” Binder said. “”We’re learning as we go.””

    Kowalski said she feels there have been significant improvements in campus safety and response since the shooting at the College of Nursing in 2002.

    “”We always have more work to do on anything dealing with campus safety issues,”” she said. “”We’re always thinking about improvement and getting people trained and educated.””

    The Dean of Students Office will be offering another group discussion Wednesday, March 5 from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. in the Student Union Memorial Center’s Kiva Room.

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