Thursday, August 23, 2007

Is your child safe at college?


…Daniel McGinn (Newsweek, August 20), harked back to the Virginia Tech tragedy and wondered how other colleges were handling the tricky task of spotting mental disorders in the student body.

…The perpetrator there had all the signs, violent writings, creepy approaches to women, lack of friends—but there was little college officials could do. Some had even flagged his behavior.

…More kids, according to the story, are coming to school with emotional issues. In a study done at Penn, 8.3% of undergrads reported taking psychiatric meds (such as Ritalin) before college. Twenty-three percent had had counseling. Four out of 10 college kids report being so depressed they cannot function (this is one in 10 in the population at large).

…At the same time, some colleges are cutting back on counseling and mental health services.

…”Brief treatment and stabilization,” said one doc, “then (over to) private counseling.” By private, he means paid by someone besides the school.

…Since students often don’t bother with counseling, an emphasis is now on getting other students to recognize trouble signs.

…MIT has developed an early warning system. Counselors there used to spend most of their time with faculty, staff, and their dependents, not students. That changed. Health educators go into the dorms and talk about such things as eating disorders and sleep habits and recommend counseling as a normal part of stressful college life.

…Intake forms at MIT contain 9 mental health questions. Students who check “yes” to any get emails reminding them of the counseling center. The suicide awareness program is called QPR—question, persuade, refer.

…A group called Active Minds (http://www.activemindsoncampus.org/) created by a student whose brother committed suicide, is on 69 campuses.

…Families of students with mental health issues should check on counseling facilities. Look around campus—do the kids seem like your kid? Do they seem talkative and smiling?

…Still, the University of Southern California holds weekly "student concerns meetings."
Security and counseling now talk.

…Check out the college of your choice at: ope.ed.gov/security/main.asp.

…You will see more property crimes and rapes than roving murderers. But heads up!

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