Shaw: UI suicide-prevention training is a step in the right direction

UISG passed two new pieces of legislation earlier this month. Let’s just hope this trend continues so the 1-in-3 college students who suffer from mental-health disorders get support and access to adequate resources.


Megan Nagorzanski

Backpacks are displayed as part of the nationwide Send Silence Packing exhibit on Oct. 10, 2018. The exhibit aims to end the silence that surrounds mental illness and suicide and connect individuals to mental-health resources.

Nichole Shaw , Opinions Columnist

Praiseworthy new initiatives to support mental health of students are in the works on campus. On March 12, the University of Iowa Student Government voted to support two new pieces of legislation supporting a new suicide-prevention program and an student mental-health fee increase. The UISG passed both without any dissent, as it should have. The legislation will allocate $5,000 for the suicide-prevention training of RAs and incoming students in addition to the $2 student-fee increase for mental-health services.

The legislation is  commendable and a step in the right direction for the university; it is no secret that college students at the UI and across the globe suffer from anxiety and depression at staggering rates. In fact, 1-in-3 college freshmen report symptoms that warrant a diagnosis of mental-health disorders, according to research published by the American Psychological Association. With statistics such as that, it is imperative students have the applicable resources and support they need to ensure their safety, well-being, and growth at the UI.

The legislation is a monumental step in the right direction, especially with the training of RAs and incoming students in mental-health issues and disorders. RAs are responsible for the well-being of their residents, most of whom will undoubtedly suffer from some sort of mental-health issue. With training, they will be able to not only support their residents fully but also handle potentially precarious or dangerous situations promptly and correctly.

RELATED: UISG votes to support new mental-health initiatives

As a college freshman, I did not suffer from any mental-health issues, thankfully. However, I had a number of friends, classmates, and fellow residents who did and sought advice or support from their RAs. Often, their RAs did not know how to help them other than send them to the University Counseling Service, which was at the time often busy and never that helpful. There were even a number of instances in which RAs simply avoided some of their residents or never got back to them regarding mental-health support and treatment inquiries.

That was unacceptable.

However, the UISG’s passing the proposals and allocating significant funds to educate leaders and supply resources for students on mental-health issues, disorders, and suicidal signals and warnings are of paramount importance. Simply knowing what to do when a peer reaches out to you about struggles in mental health is a huge step in the right direction in comparison to the lost feeling of confusion that plagued our society regarding mental health support and/or treatment.

The $2 mental-health-fee increase is also notable, because it will fund three new positions at the Counseling Service. The three will be a second case manager, a liaison between the service and the Dean of Students’ Office, and a partially funded staff psychologist. The added positions will allow students to better connect to mental-health services outside the Counseling Service and find campus-wide support.

RELATED: UI announces suicide prevention training requirement for incoming students and RAs

From 2017 to 2018, student visits to the Counseling Service increased by almost 1,000, according to the legislation UISG passed. With the $2-per-semester fee increase, an additional $107,000 would be added to the service’s budget. While UISG is on the right track for ensuring students’ mental health is supported, the proposed fee must still be approved by UI Senior Vice President for Finance Rod Lehnertz and the state Board of Regents.

For the sake of your mental state, let’s hope they do.

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