• Jerusalem Tukura

Assisting the distressed student at Minot State

Mental health is increasingly becoming an issue at Minot State University, according to Melissa Fettig, director of student health and member of MSU’s Behavioral Intervention Team.

In order to match the needs of the MSU community, MSU formally introduced a program called “Assisting the Distressed Student” earlier this month. The program consists of two teams — Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT) and Crisis Response Team (CRT). The goal of these teams is to serve as an intermediate, a safety net, for students as well as faculty and staff. Although the program was created for students, it is also applicable to faculty and staff.

“We are seeing more mental health issues on campus. We are seeing more serious things that could be prevented,” Fettig said.

“I am careful to say there has been x-amount of attempts or situations involving suicide on our campus. However, I can say that this is a very real issue,” Kevin Harmon, vice president of student affairs and member of the BIT and CRT, said. “This is an issue that we deal with way too frequently on our campus and our system needed to be improved.”

For Ryan Fila, Minot State student and member of the StepUP program, mental health services at the university need to be more than a reporting system.

“Everybody handles situations differently. (There should be) somebody that the student would be comfortable talking to or sharing their feelings with,” Fila said. “People initially fall back on their friends and family. That is the natural way you handle that, but obviously there are issues where people do not talk about it. How do you get them to (before they take) things to the extreme?”

For now, the university is taking a step toward easier access to services through the BIT and CRT.

“If you see something, say something and do something,” Harmon said. “That is kind of a nice way to summarize what we would like for our university community members.”

Earlier this month, MSU’s University Communications Office sent a campus-wide email announcement introducing the program.

“The Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT) and Crisis Response Team (CRT) are formal institution-wide committees whose charge is to link students of concern to campus and community resources,” the announcement read. “This includes assisting in an Imminent, Urgent, or Uncertain situation involving students, staff, or faculty on campus. The BIT has worked tirelessly to develop practical tools for our MSU community to address these situations.”

Links to a manual to help students, staff or faculty assist people in the MSU community experiencing distress, a quick one-page guide to help make decisions on how to assist students, staff, or faculty in distress, and an online form to report a student, staff, or faculty concern can be found on the Red &

Green’s homepage at MinotStateU.edu/RedGreen.

The BIT has existed for years at MSU but is now formalized as it is under the National Behavioral Intervention Team Association (NaBITA) and follows their guidelines as opposed to improvising.

“We knew some things were not as in place as they should be. We are seeing more issues with students with mental health,” Fettig said. “Because that is increasing, we are realizing that we have to get a handle on preventing — don’t wait until a crisis. We are trying to get more in line with prevention — let’s fix this before it gets really bad, versus waiting for the crisis to happen.”

In the past, if a student had a mental health issue, the student had to find the appropriate care and assistance, but now, with the availability and structure of the BIT and CRT, the student no longer has to go through that process, as the BIT and CRT are equipped with the information and resources to facilitate help and support as soon as possible, as opposed to the student waiting to set up an appointment with a mental healthcare provider, which could take weeks.

The forms for reporting concerns can be found on the homepage of the MSU website under the Keep U Safe button. The Keep U Safe button links to four different forms for reporting concerns. The first is for reporting a concern for a member of the MSU community before a situation escalates to a crisis level, the second is for Title IX complaints, the third is for giving anonymous tips to the university on any incident or person of concern, and the fourth is for student complaints such as discrimination.

“Our goal is that we wanted to have a place for people to report so we could get assistance and manage our students, staff, and faculty to get them the help they need, but ultimately, the goal is to have a really good and robust mental health program and a really strong suicide prevention program,” Fettig said.

“Everybody can report,” Devin McCall, Residence Life director and BIT chair, said. “Anybody that has a concern can report through the ‘reporting a student of concern’ form that’s on the MSU webpage. Then, we’ll take those reports, we look at what’s going on and then we ask questions like, ‘What are their grades like?’ ‘Are they attending class?’ We reach out to their academic advisors, we reach out to our counseling center on campus, we reach out to Student Health, and any office that might have student interactions, so we can see where the touch points are on campus.”

Suicide, among other mental health issues, should not go ignored.

For concerns and assistance, dial 211-SUICIDE (211-784-2433) 1-800-273-8255 anytime, day or night, to be directed to someone on the BIT at Minot State. Reporting concerns or seeking help can also be done in-person with any of the BIT members.

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