Housing and Dining Services, Greek Life work to raise awareness of mental health

Housing and Dining Services staff and leaders in Greek Life deal with student issues like mental health. (File Photo by Melanie White | Collegian Media Group)

Housing and Dining Services staff and leaders in Greek Life deal with student issues like roommates fighting, being too loud and coming back to their rooms drunk.

Another issue is mental health and suicide.

“Looking at mental health on a broader scope, it’s one of the most important topics that we spend time with our staff,” Nick Lander, associate director of Residence Life, said.

Housing and Dining spends the month of August preparing resident assistants for everything they encounter during the school year. Several days are dedicated to education on how to handle students struggling with mental health and how to manage it themselves.

Lander said working in a helping profession as a student can be tough. Since there are limitations of what RAs can do, Housing and Dining takes time to define the role of an RA.

“We don’t expect them to be counselors for students,” Lander said. “Their goal is really to refer students to the proper resources and then just be supportive of those students, and get them to the professionals that can really help them.”

While RAs aren’t licensed counselors, there are things they do to help students early — plan programs dedicated to mental health education, post bulletin boards with local resources, and most importantly, get to know their residents.

Building relationships with residents helps RAs be supportive and notice issues early on. Lander said RAs are often the first person a resident goes to when they or their roommate are struggling with mental health.

While RAs are an important resource, they are not confidential. Housing and Dining documents everything to create the best possible environment for students. If a student wishes to talk to a confidential resource, RAs direct them to one for the help they need.

“My hope is that, if we can recognize the signs of students struggling early on, then we can get them the help and resources they need before it gets to the point where they would be considering suicide,” Lander said.

Lander said RAs do not frequently deal with situations of suicide.

Greek Life also has plans to help raise awareness about mental health and suicide.

“Talking about mental health and suicide is becoming more of a cultural norm now,” Interfraternity Council President Sam Keener said.

Panhellenic Council President Brooke Montgomery said this is an opportunity for IFC and PHC to collaborate.

“This is a big opportunity for IFC and PHC to work together,” Montgomery said. “We have had lots of groups and speakers reach out to us to present to chapters in the spring and next fall.”

Fraternities now elect mental health chairs to help the chapter members’ mental health and direct them to resources within Counseling Services or the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education.

“We will have a workshop for all of the chapters’ mental health chairs and give them all the resources they need,” Keener said.