By Kimmie Collins
May 19, 2020
AJ Hobson will soon finish her fourth year working with Indiana State University. In her role as interim dean of students, she serves as a support system for Sycamores, helping students work through any issues that they might be having. She ensures that students understand resources available to them, both on campus and in the local community. She met with me virtually to help me better understand how students can take care of their mental health while at Indiana State.
What does mental health include?
When I think about mental health, I often frame it as mental well-being because we know that there are a lot of different aspects of mental well-being. That could be someone who experiences mental illness or mental health struggles, but to me, it also means what we all need to be doing to take care of our emotional, spiritual, and intellectual self. It’s the ways in which we learn coping mechanisms and skills in order to be able to learn, to interact, and to take care of ourselves.
What resources are available to students at Indiana State to take care of their mental well-being?
There are lot of ways that we can support and students individually can support their own mental well-being. For a lot of folks, the number one resource around mental well-being is our Student Counseling Center. They are the folks that help us learn coping skills, that help us talk through the roadblocks or other obstacles that keep us from being balanced. They can help us learn to navigate depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.
What services does the Student Counseling Center provide?
The Student Counseling Center is a really excellent resource on our campus. They have trained, licensed, professional counselors, therapists, and social workers. They offer a wide variety of services, from individual, couples, or group counseling, to a psychologist who can help someone regulate their medications. One-on-one counseling is what most people go to the Student Counseling Center for. Group therapy can be anything. I know that this year they had a Dungeons and Dragons based group and a Creative Expressions group to connect that artistic part of our brains. They also offer testing around learning disabilities and other neuro-divergences.
How have these services changed during the COVID-19 pandemic?
They are offering tele-counseling via Zoom. Even if someone’s really far away right now, they can still access those services by calling the Student Counseling Center at 812-237-3939. We know that right now is a much higher stress period, so people with pre-existing mental health concerns or struggles may definitely be struggling a lot. Every weekday at 4 p.m., the Student Counseling Center is doing things like yoga and meditation and art therapy on Instagram.
What do these services cost students?
The structure is changing a little bit for fall. Right now, it is $60 for the year for counseling. Some of that will change moving forward.
How can students make an appointment with the Student Counseling Center?
Right now, calling is the best way to get a hold of the Student Counseling Center. In other times, they would be able to walk into the office to make an appointment as well.
Does the Student Counseling Center provide services in emergency situations, such as suicidal thoughts or sexual assault?
The Student Counseling Center does offer crisis walk-in, or call-in, counseling, if the student is in crisis during the day. They also have a counselor on-call, so even outside of business hours someone can speak to a counselor if they get in touch with ISU Police Department. The Student Counseling Center is a confidential space, but for someone who has experienced sexual violence, we also have a confidential Victim Advocate Service. It is a 24 hour, seven day a week, 365 days a year line that is staffed predominantly by faculty and staff volunteers on campus. We also have a confidential Lead Victim Advocate, and they can help someone who’s experienced sexual violence, relationship violence, or stalking navigate what their options and resources are. That number is 812-243-7272.
What other resources exist on campus for students to support their mental well-being?
Our Student Health Promotion office really works to do preventative programs about proactive ways that we can engage and learn more about that balance. It’s located on the sixth floor of HMSU.
It’s important to recognize the Sycamore Pantry. While food security is about our physical well-being, we know that people who do not have access to food or are food insecure also have trouble with their mental well-being. All of the pieces need to be in balance.
The Student Rec Center also has fabulous stuff out there, whether that’s a personal trainer or going to a gym or getting out and moving around or doing yoga. These are really good, solid skills because we know that balance is important.
I mentioned that mental health is about emotional, spiritual, and intellectual well-being. If your spiritual path helps you stay stable and a solid coping mechanism for you is that ability to connect to a spiritual journey, our local Campus Ministries and student organizations dedicated to spiritual growth are important.
Finally, I would say that another resource is any faculty and staff on campus, especially the dean of students. This could be your RA if you live in one of the residence halls or a faculty member that you have a good relationship with. Relationships are one of the most important and strongest connections for helping us maintain mental health.
How have Indiana State’s resources changed now that we are off-campus?
All of the staff of the Division of Student Affairs is still working. That includes the Student Health Promotion and the Dean of Students Office, and we are trying to support our students even from afar. I mentioned that the Student Counseling Center is doing virtual help. If you follow the Division of Student Affairs social media accounts, you can learn more about the things that each area is doing. If you are still geographically close to Terre Haute, the food pantry is still available. Typically, you can go to the food pantry when it’s open and get access to food that way. Right now, a student would need to contact the Sycamore Pantry through email at firstname.lastname@example.org and set up an appointment.
Can you talk a little about the Mental Health Fee Initiative?
So, it was a student-driven initiative. Student Government Association did a lot of background research about what other institutions are doing and what the needs are on campus. They then conducted a referendum about the initiative as part of their voting process. The Board of Trustees took that into consideration, and they enacted a $40 a semester fee for any student that is enrolled in more than six credit hours for spring or fall.
How will the fee benefit students?
Student Government Association asked for more support, so that is twofold. It is about training and education, so it’s about helping students, faculty, and staff understand mental wellness better. The second thing is more staffing. The Student Counseling Center has had a significant waitlist for the last several years, so we will be increasing the number of counselors available. Hopefully, that will help with some of that waitlist and be an additional benefit.
Students may schedule an appointment at the Student Counseling Center by calling 812-237-3939. Students experiencing sexual violence, relationship violence, or stalking should contact the lead victim advocate at 812-243-7272. Any student experiencing a crisis, including suicidal thoughts, should contact the Indiana State University Police Department at 812-237-5555 to be connected to an on-call counselor.