While fewer people on campus means fewer crisis intervention calls to SIUE police, students may be less likely to seek mental health services in an online format, raising concerns.
SIUE Police Chief Kevin Schmoll said despite the usual surge in welfare checks at the beginning of the school year, often due to concerned parents asking SIUE police to check on their children, fewer people on campus has resulted in a lower volume of calls.
“We had a total of nine [crisis intervention team] calls [between March 9 and Oct. 6]. Five were not transported, four were transported and out of those nine, two were involuntary … so our volume of calls are down because there’s just less people, less students, less residents on campus due to COVID restrictions,” Schmoll said.
Schmoll said all officers who respond to crisis intervention calls are certified in crisis intervention training.
“They know how to talk to the person that they’re dealing with and they can make the determination if they are a threat to themselves or others, and most of the time they can talk them into going voluntarily,” Schmoll said.
Courtney Boddie, Director of Counseling Services and Associate Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion, said Counseling Services and SIUE PD work together to give each other notes, as well as update and modify procedures.
“In general, welfare checks are something that are asked for by another entity beyond the police. So it’s generally the case that the care report would tell us who are all the concerning students, and then those same people may have either self-initiated a welfare check, or may have asked counselors of the Dean of Students to do so,” Boddie said. “And so because, generally speaking, the PD aren’t sort of just arriving to the scene and then making a referral, it’s often sort of like closing a communication loop.”
Boddie said Counseling Services does annual comparatives, so he is hesitant to compare numbers mid-semester. However, he said at this point, the number of students seen by Counseling Services has been consistent. Meanwhile, the number of initial assessments, during which a Behavioral Health Case Manager determines which treatment mode is best for a client, are down.
“What we do see is a massive increase in the amount of outreaches that are being asked for, which, because they’re provided by this set of people who also provide the clinical services, is a way in which our services are being utilized at a higher rate,” Boddie said. “And in terms of the number of students that we’re seeing, I would say that the total number is pretty consistent with what we would expect for the fall semester. What’s down a little bit is our number of initial assessments.”
Boddie said a survey put out by the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and the Associate Provost, which collected 1,800 responses, indicated that students are less willing to participate in virtual activities.
“One of the clearest things that people are saying is like, ‘If everything that I have to do, including my interactions with student organizations, have to be done via Zoom,’ then there’s a certain amount of decreased willingness that I think people have to just continue sitting in front of the computer,” Boddie said. “And my sense is that any decreases that we see in those initial assessments probably have to do with, one, ‘not one more thing online,’ even though our services are more accessible than ever, you know, I get tired of looking at the computer too. And then I think the other piece is that when folks face major changes to the basic fabric of life, I think that the adjustment sometimes means that priorities are flipped.”
Counseling Services hosted Virtual Screening Days from Oct. 7 to Oct. 9 to allow students to assess their mental health by filling out a wellness survey.
“The results overall are consistent with other survey results that we have used in our campus community in the past, so there isn’t any significant elevation in what people are reporting compared to the other sets of students that we have used this with,” Lisa Gibson-Thompson, staff counselor and coordinator for outreach and prevention, said.
Lisa Vargovcik, a licensed clinical social worker from Radzom Counseling, said while traditional-age college students seem to be less concerned about contracting COVID-19, they seem more anxious about their workloads.
“I have had some students talk about increased workload, so for this Fall 2020 semester, feeling like there’s a lot more demand for projects and homework, and then some people just not liking or preferring the virtual format,” Vargovcik said.
Jonathan Pettibone, a psychology professor, said the uncertainty of the level of risk may affect how a person responds to something like COVID-19, offering a hypothetical to explain his point.
“Let’s just assume it’s a two percent mortality rate from COVID. If that’s the objective number, some people will subjectively interpret that as riskier than two percent, and some people will subjectively interpret it as less risky than two percent, which is why you get this wide variety of responses in the absence of a common leadership to set a social norm,” Pettibone said. “We’re leaving a lot of things up to individuals, and there are a lot of contextual and other psychological factors that are affecting how we interpret it.”
Visit the Counseling Services website to learn more about their services.