That new folder your professor’s carrying isn’t concealing your marks.
Western conducted a review of its mental health supports following the arrest of a student in the Social Science Centre last year. The result was a detailed package to help professors identify struggling students.
The folder, titled “Student in Difficulty,” was in its draft form when the review began and received support from those conducting the review.
“[The reviewer] saw the draft folder and liked it very much, encouraging Western to proceed with this initiative,” Gitta Kulczycki, vice-president resources and operations for Western, explained. “The folder was but one of the educational initiatives, and provides a ready reference.”
The report was published in April and made several recommendations. Among them were confidentiality training for faculty, guidance on mental health resources and improvements to the emergency communication system. The report was to focus on the policies and procedures surrounding the arrest and not the use of force.
The folder contains information on the continuum of violence, and resources to help a student in difficulty.
“We had to ensure we put what we felt was important,” said Elgin Autsen, director of Western’s Campus Community Police Service. “How could [users] best be able to help individuals?”
He explained the documents in the folder included information on mental health resources because they are a growing concern on university campuses.
Daniella McIntosh, mental heath issues commissioner with the University Students’ Council, expressed some concerns with the folder because it paired information about mental health with different levels of violence.
“[There are] misconceptions that people with mental health difficulties are violent,” she said. “[The folder] could uphold that.”
Austen pointed out there was a long debate process over including the violence continuum in the folder.
“Sometimes they are not a danger to anyone, but they could be a danger to themselves,” he said of those suffering from mental health issues.
McIntosh also noted it was a problem that campus services could not speak with each other. McIntosh said students were asked to deal with unfamiliar avenues to get help — like faculty departments — instead of people they were more familiar with.
“I think some students may want to talk to their professors, but it’s kind of impersonal dealing with the department,” she explained.
Kulczycki hoped the folders and other education initiatives would address the criticism.
“Education, collaboration, and encouraging the interaction and contribution of all members toward supporting a safe, respectful and violence-free environment.”
Austen noted many people do not deal with these situations on a regular basis and are unsure what to do with referrals or confidentiality.
“We wanted to make a strong statement that when personal safety was at risk, there is no confidentiality,” Austen explained.
Kulczycki noted over 4,000 staff had taken part in various workshops designed to drive this message home. She noted further initiatives were being developed.
In order to get the message out about future on-campus emergencies, Kulczycki explained Western was exploring using the large linked screens on campus to distribute emergency messages. She hoped to have the project finalized within the next month, in order to obtain a budget for it.
Austen added students were one of the most difficult groups to get a hold of in emergencies, though there were many ways to reach them. However, internally there were several different departments reached with one phone call.
“One call alerts everybody to a particular situation,” he said.