On Sept. 20, 2022 the New York Timesreported that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is recommending anxiety screening for all adults under 65. The article noted that, “from August 2020 to February 2021, the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of an anxiety or a depressive disorder increased to 41.5 percent from 36.4 percent,” among other statistics indicating a sharp increase in mental health issues.
October 24th-28th is Mental Health Week this semester. The featured event is the Mental Health Fair, Wednesday the 26th from 11am-2pm in the MPR. Resilience and Depression Screenings will be done by the Psychological Counseling Center staff in 2nd floor rooms in the Student Union. Alcohol Awareness Month & Sexual Violence Awareness Month will be featured as well. You will receive information via the Daily Digest and email.
Both SUNY and SUNY New Paltz are responding with new investments in mental health resources for students, with help from $24 million of American Rescue Plan funds earmarked by SUNY for mental health last year.
1. Question, Persuade, Refer
It is our goal that every faculty and staff member at SUNY New Paltz will receive training in “Question, Persuade, Refer” (QPR), a quick and simple technique to address mental health needs. QPR is an evidence-based emergency mental health intervention for people at risk of suicide and other mental health crises. Think of QPR as mental health CPR.
Hundreds of New Paltz faculty, staff and students, including all Resident Advisors, have already completed this training. It is offered regularly on campus by the Psychological Counseling Center, in conjunction with the Faculty Development Center and Institute for Disaster Mental Health. QPR training is also available online through SUNY.
2. An outstanding Psychological Counseling Center team
The “R” in QPR only works if we have available qualified mental health providers to whom we can refer those in need. At New Paltz, we are fortunate to have the Psychological Counseling Center (PCC), led by long-serving Director Gweneth Lloyd, D.S.W.
We invested mental health funding on an external site visit review of the PCC in the spring to ensure that we are offering best practices in the most efficient and user-friendly means available. The PCC received a glowing report, citing well-qualified staff and appropriate services. The report indicated a need for more administrative support, and the SUNY funds allowed us to promote two senior counselors, Joel Oppenheimer and Lauren Spencer, to Assistant Directors. Their responsibilities include outreach and training oversight for graduate interns, which will further expand the Center’s capacity. In addition to her Senior Counselor role, Sarah Burrows is now serving as a case manager. She will continue to solidify our relationships with local hospitals to better coordinate mental health transport care.
We expanded the counseling center staff from six to seven in 2018 and last year added another senior counselor line, bringing full-time mental health providers to eight. With the promotions of Joel and Lauren, two new Senior Counselors joined the PCC this week: Please welcome Loucricia Brown and Chante Coppedge.
The PCC offers*:
Individual counseling sessions
Let’s Talk drop-in sessions held in the Student Union Building 416, Wednesdays from 1-3 p.m.
24/7 crisis response triage (845-257-2920 to contact the answering service, who will refer the call to the PCC on-call counselor)
Psychiatric Consultation (including TelePsychiatry through SUNY Upstate Medical)
Workshops including #SkillstoChill and Practicing Positive Masculinity
Depression and other screenings around campus at strategic points of the semester
Consultation with faculty and staff who have concerns about a student’s mental health
Eight full-time mental health professionals are far from sufficient to serve more than 7,000 students, which is why the College works proactively with organizations throughout the Hudson Valley to make additional services available.
As with all college counseling centers, our PCC exists to support mental health issues so that students can achieve their academic goals. The services offered are for time-limited treatment within the scope of the counselors’ expertise. In the same way that the Student Health Center is not able to treat all physical health needs, the PCC cannot treat all mental health needs. The PCC works with students to refer them to community providers for continued care and treatment in specialized areas. Most health insurance now also offers mental health services by phone. There is limited, donated funding available for students who do not have insurance, are concerned with the loss of confidentiality of using their parents’ insurance, or need assistance with copays.
4. Trusted off-campus support services
While we prefer that students in crisis use the PCC on call system, available 24/7 during the semester, non-campus resources include:
You can find mental health resources, some of which are available 24/7, by county across New York through SUNY’s website.
5. Peer counseling: Students helping students
Peer counseling is a valuable resource available through three avenues at SUNY New Paltz:
OASIS (845-257-4945) is a student-staffed crisis intervention center and telephone hotline available daily (except during breaks) 8 p.m. – 12 a.m. OASIS student volunteers are trained to address issues of suicidal thoughts, depression, relationships, roommate issues, academic problems, loneliness, drugs and drug identification, sexual issues and campus and community services.
HAVEN (845-257-4930) is a student-staffed, crisis intervention center and telephone hotline specifically for issues of sexual assault and other unwanted sexual experiences and relationship violence. Services are available by phone or in person daily (except during breaks) 8 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Note: OASIS/HAVEN have moved from their Awosting location (due to the renovation of that building) to their new space in Lenape room 130 and will celebrate with an open house in the near future.
The Scholars Mentorship Program (SMP) Peer Mentorship Program is open to SMP students. Founded by Dr. Lloyd, the Peer Mentorship Program was developed to provide peer support for a positive transition to campus life for these students of color. SMP mentors are sophomores, juniors and seniors who have completed the peer mentoring course, BLK 420 – Counseling Underrepresented Students.
6. Support services through the Disability Resource Center
Mental health is the primary reason students are registered with the Disability Resource Center. The Center provides these students with support including art therapy, advisor and learning specialist help, and accommodations for academics, housing and meals.
7. Holistic Hawks: Working for your wellbeing
Holistic Hawks is a committee of students, staff and faculty focused on student wellbeing. The group coordinates resources and offers programs including stress buster activities during midterms and finals. Holistic Hawks is chaired by Jaclyn Cirello, coordinator of wellbeing initiatives and outreach. Jaclyn focuses on substance abuse prevention and related mental health issues.
8. Student organizations working on mental health issues
Active Minds and Student Resilience Advocates are student groups whose mission is outreach and prevention for mental health issues.
Student Resilience Advocates are the product of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health, trained and funded through donations and grants. Their Instagram and other social media presence offer supportive messages, and they offer their peers workshops on stress management and other wellness strategies.
Active Minds partners with Holistic Hawks and other groups to offer a Mental Health Week each semester. This semester, Mental Health Week will be Oct. 26-30, and will include workshops and mental health awareness efforts, including a Mental Health Fair (Oct. 28) featuring campus and community resources.
Athletes: Student-athletes at SUNY New Paltz have access to Athlete Talk, an app that provides guidance and resources specialized to student athletes. Professional Athletics Wellness & Recreation staff have all been certified in Mental Health First Aid and QPR. The Student Athletic Advisory Committee has a Mental Health subcommittee with connections to Hidden Opponent, a national organization for student athlete mental health. The Mental Health subcommittee spearheads the green-out games to raise awareness about mental health issues and resources, among other projects.
10. More ideas for practicing good mental hygiene
We want students to take advantage of the mental health resources available on and off campus. At the same time, our mission is to educate students how to manage life’s challenges by normalizing their experience and building resilience. We want students (and staff and faculty) to practice good mental hygiene. Wellness, whether related to the physical, spiritual, vocational, financial, recreational or emotional self does not happen by itself. It takes intention and practice.