UM Board of Curators address mental health on campus

College shooting in Oregon puts the increased focus on mental health in context.

MU has seen a 35 percent increase in requests for mental health services from 2014 to 2015.

The UM System Board of Curators met Friday in Kansas City to address mental health issues facing colleges across the state. David Wallace, director of the MU Counseling Center, spoke to curators as a guest about the rising number of mental health service requests.

“One of things we’ve had this fall is an unprecedented surge in demand for services,” Wallace said. “We’ve responded to the situation in the best way we know how.”

There are two ways for MU students to access mental health services on campus. One is by scheduling an appointment, a method that has been tested in the last five weeks according to Wallace. The other is through a crisis on-call service in which a professional meets with the student face to face. The center also has an after hours on-call program for when the Counseling Center is closed.

“We let the students make the choice and make the decision about which service they want, and we respond to that request,” Wallace said.

The meeting did not focus only on mental health problems at MU. The event opened with a presentation on mental health, which was particularly relevant because of the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon the day before.

The curators named 2015 the “Year of the Student,” focusing on issues such as advising, quality of instruction and graduating on time. However, the meeting focused most on mental health and campus safety. Debra Robinson, vice chancellor of student affairs at Missouri S&T, spoke to curators as a guest about the mental health issues facing many college students.

“(Mental health) is like the foundation,” Robinson said. “You have to think of Maslow’s hierarchy: You have to meet basic needs so that you can be more successful at the top.”

Robinson said the mental health issues facing students now are much more complex than they have been in history.

Robinson cited the importance of mental health by showing four shootings from the past two decades: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois and the shooting of former Sen. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.

“So this is in all of our minds,” Robinson said. “And I think it’s stepped up our game as far as what we do to prevent this type of thing and help our students be successful.”

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