NMU amends mental health resources

NMU amends mental health resources

Jackie Jahfetson

NMU is fixing some of its policies and there will be an Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA training session in Section 504 next week as a result of the recent mental settlement policy case.

Though the policies are not yet final, some are “substantive” and some are not, Dean of Students Chris Greer said. Some are just title changes, and others are comprehensive, Greer said. The changes, however, will not be too radical.

“In all honesty, the law changed in 2011. And we’ve been asking for guidance since 2011 so we’re finally getting it,” Greer said. “But in the meantime, we made changes based on what we thought the interpretation was.”

Regarding the 2011 policy changes to mental health, counselors and NMU personnel can only intervene so much. Staff are prohibited in intervention unless students visit the counseling center and there’s no way of mandating counseling, Greer said.

“So that makes it difficult and it doesn’t feel right exactly because we can’t be intrusive, and when you’re in a helping profession and you know someone needs help, you want to do something and we can’t. All we can do is offer help,” she said.

The Counseling & Consultation Services located at 3405 Hedgcock is a free student service that offers help to overcome psychological obstacles that inhibit the ability to participate meaningfully in the NMU living and learning community. In addition to helping students, counselors also offer consultation to university faculty, staff and students who want guidance in dealing with others who may be causing them concern.

“Our counseling center is top notch so I think they deal with students really effectively. I think the housing staff really do a good job with the students in the halls who are having mental health issues,” Greer said.

Appointments are offered daily for students who feel they need immediate intervention, the center also offers brief individual counseling. There is no limit to the number of appointments allowed and all of the sessions and records are kept strictly
confidential.

“It’s really a no-wrong door. If you go anywhere in this building and hopefully on campus and have a problem, you’ll be helped to come here,” Department Head of the Counseling and Consultation Services Marie Aho said. “Everybody tries to help with resources.

And what I like to say about our services is don’t worry about evaluating yourself whether you need to come. Come and we’ll talk about it. No problem too big, no problem too small.”

Over the past seven to 10 years, the number of appointments at the Counseling Center has increased, especially in the past two years, Aho said. But high numbers are not always a bad thing, Aho said. It means more and more people are feeling comfortable in coming to the Counseling Center, treatment is working and it therefore reduces the stigma applied around mental health, Aho added.

With five trained staff members, the increasing amount of appointments keeps the staff busy. But the center is also looking at new avenues to help more students such as the JED campus program, which was implemented in February 2017. JED is a nationwide initiative of the Jed Foundation designed to help schools through a collaborative process of comprehensive program development to build upon existing student mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention efforts. Therapist Assisted Online (TAO) is a suite of online tools for client education, interaction, accountability and progress assessment to facilitate effective mental health treatment and will soon be available to students on MyNMU.edu.

“You can’t really hire your way out of this big swell of needs but I really believe one more counselor would make a big difference,” Aho said. “But again, that is why we’re looking at all these other online support [programs].”

Some people think that if the Counseling Center is closed, there’s nothing available to them, Aho said. But there are several services students and faculty have access to such as the resources located under the Student Services tab at mynmu.edu, the Dial Help 24-7 crisis line that is free and confidential at (906)482-4357 or (800)562-7622.

For more information about the counseling services, visit their website at www.nmu.edu/counselingandconsultation or call them at (906)227-2980.