University News

UCS discusses Psych Services improvements

Council members say office should diversify staff, make students feel more comfortable

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Undergraduate Council of Students discussed mental health issues on campus at its Wednesday meeting.

Undergraduate Council of Students members raised issues regarding Psychological Services’ commitment to student confidentiality, the hiring of minority staff members and student outreach at the UCS general body meeting Wednesday featuring Sherri Nelson, director of Psychological Services, Maria Suarez, associate dean and director of Student Support Services, and Carol Cohen, associate dean of the College for health and personal issues.

One issue that emerged was balancing patients’ confidentiality with the need to keep keeping those close to them informed of their well-being.

Maahika Srinivasan ’15, chair of the UCS Academic and Administrative Affairs committee, asked how those near a student, such as roommates, Meiklejohn Peer Advisers, Residential Peer Leaders, and Women and Minority Peer Counselors, are informed of mental health incidents to “coordinate with all of the different support systems that we have.”

When informing students’ acquaintances, Psychological Services specialists “have conversations with the student to say what are you comfortable with” and “try to establish as much of a safety net underneath the student as possible,” Suarez said.

Meiklejohns participated in a mental health crisis workshop for the first time this year, so they are “very ready with all the resources that a Meik could get in touch with,” said Zach Hammer ’16, a Meiklejohn leader. He asked the speakers what Meiklejohns should do if advisees approach them with mental health issues, especially when confidentiality is at stake.

“It can be done in an appropriate way,” Cohen said in response, describing how Psychological Services specialists sometimes meet with students and tell them their acquaintances are concerned about their safety and well-being. “I never like the situation of being caught in a confidence,” she said, adding that excluding professional help can “be harmful for both sides in getting the student support.”

One UCS general body member said she is concerned that minority students, specifically women of color, do not have adequate representation on the Psychological Services staff. She asked the speakers if they had plans to address this issue.

“We’re always looking to increase the diversity of our staff and are very aware of that issue,” Suarez said. “When we hire new therapists, it’s a priority for us. … We do the best that we can do,” she said, adding that staff members undergo internal training on diversity.

The office struggles in “attracting strong candidates of every kind,” Cohen said, noting that with the need for competitive salaries, hiring diverse staff members “is a resource issue” and deserves the attention of those higher up in the administration.

Psychological Services should open its doors to students during “weekend hours and late night hours,” in addition to offering its 24-hour emergency on-call service, said UCS general body member Sam Rubinstein ’17.

Noah Fields ’17, another UCS general body member, asked the speakers their “specific tactics for … making every student feel like they can come to Psych Services and receive compassionate care in a way that they feel like they will be supported.”

Suarez said students lack awareness of available resources, adding that staff members “spend a lot of time … educating them about our services, telling them about our services.”

Nelson said the office is looking to make students feel more welcome and “compassionately cared for.”

UCS also continued the process of categorizing student groups. Three service groups — Best Buddies at Brown, Project Sunshine at Brown and She’s the First — earned Category S status. Eight groups, including Providence Democratic Socialists, TEDxBrownU and Students for Organ Donation Awareness, were designated Category I, meaning they will have access to University space and advertising through Morning Mail. Six groups, including Cornerstone Magazine, $ocial Classmates and the Alexander Hamilton Society, moved up from Category I to Category II, earning $200 of additional funding. The Latin American Student Organization was the only group to gain Category III status, a distinction that offers the same provisions as Category II but with the opportunity to apply for even more funding.

  • Loque Ashash

    You cannot improve it while you talk. I understand that some talking is desirable. But you guys are absurd about it. Admit it.

  • angry comment section regular

    good stuff. i agree w/ dean suarez that students aren’t as aware of all of psych services’ resources as they could be. there’s always room for improvement there.

    LOL @ the kid suggesting that they staff the office over weekends and “late night hours”… uhh if they could afford to double the # of hours people were in the office, they could probably afford to hire 5+ minority therapists. (i hope he knew about the 24-hour emergency line mentioned — i hope everyone knows! that line got me through a really tough night once. put it in yr phones everyone)

    a little surprised that mental health wasn’t addressed in meiklejohn training before this year… don’t they have like hours and hours of training? wtf