Kent State is prepared to handle students who raise mental health concerns

Bre Vozar

The shootings in Tucson, Ariz. are raising concern in schools across the nation, but Kent State University is well-prepared and taking all precautions to ensure campus safety.

Sheryl Smith, dean of students and student ombuds, said the university has had a classroom disruption policy and an administrative policy regarding regulations for student behavior in place since 1977 to handle these situations.

Students can report concerns about troubled peers to any faculty or staff member.

Smith said the amount of reports made this semester is already high enough to be a concern. She is unsure of why there is an increase in concerns, but suspects it may be because of the shootings in Arizona.

“We are getting more reports from student when they are seeing something in Twitter or Facebook or texts that makes them concerned about the well-being of a friend,” Smith said.

John Schell, senior psychologist at University Health Services, said there has been an “increase in demand for therapy and counseling services over the years.” This is a trend that is seen at counseling centers across the nation.

“As college students face increased stress and pressure, they become increasingly vulnerable to a broad range of mental health concerns, including depression and anxiety,” Schell said.

Smith said the university is doing everything it can to ensure the safety of its students, faculty and staff. The Kent State Police Department offers two classes, A.L.I.C.E. training and Managing Disruptive Behavior.

In A.L.I.C.E., students and instructors learn what to do if they were involved in an active shooter situation. This is the first year it is being offered to students as a class.

The other class, Managing Disruptive Behavior, is offered only to faculty and staff. It was developed to teach instructors how to effectively and safely deal with difficult people.

Michquel Penn, Kent State police officer, is involved in crisis intervention training and received an award for Crisis Intervention Team Officer of the Year in 2009. She said it’s unfortunate we have to have these classes in the first place.

“In light of the tragedies that have taken place on campuses across the country, we want those in the KSU community to have some basic knowledge if they were ever faced with that type of situation,” Penn said. “Studies have shown that those trained to handle specific crisis situations react quicker in situations than those not trained.”

Campus police have a specific team trained to handle situations as large as the Arizona shooting or as simple as a disruptive student in class. The officer will arrive at the scene and determine if further action is needed. The officer will then ask the student to be voluntarily evaluated by mental health professionals at Psychological Services on campus or a community clinic. Psychological Services are located at the Health Center, White Hall and Kent Hall.

Depending on the situation, the police will follow up with the student to assure progress in the situation. The university cannot force psychological help on a student; it can only provide information. If the person does not comply and the officer feels that he or she is at risk of harming others, then the officer can transport the person to a clinic.

Students can also take precautions to help protect themselves and others.

“A lot of people here don’t know that if you dial 911 from your cell phone that you’re going to get the Kent State Police,” Smith said. “If you’re in a classroom and feel uncomfortable about what is going on, dial 911 and they’ll come and help you sort it out.”

The university also has an early alert system that allows faculty and staff to express a concern for a student.

The Caring Team is another system the university uses as a safety mechanism. Representatives from major on-campus offices meet every week to discuss cases that are brought to their attention.

Smith said students should not worry about reporting troubled peers because their reports will stay confidential.

“What’s important to me is students reporting, and that’s a message that I want to get out there,” Smith said. “They are doing the right thing to tell someone.”

Contact Bre Vozar at [email protected].