NU helps, not evicts, suicidal students

By Natasha Kellett

The practice of universities evicting suicidal students has received media attention in recent months, but at Northeastern a program is in place to aid and support these students instead.

Rather than follow the trend, Northeastern has developed an initiative called “We Care” to monitor the mental well-being of its students. The program brings together staff from the Office of Student Affairs, University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS), Residence Life and the Office of Spiritual Life to care for the individual needs of each student.

“I don’t think it’s good for the institution or the student to just pack them off and say goodbye,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Ed Klotzbier. “It makes more sense to care about the student and to take care of their needs.”

Molly Ballerstein, a sophomore theatre major, said eviction isn’t the appropriate response.

“I think if [students] were evicted from college it would make things worse,” she said. “How would you get into another college if your reason for leaving was depression?”

The policy begins with students seeking help through UHCS, but getting them there is often difficult. It may be easier for a troubled student, or a concerned friend, to talk to the student’s resident assistant (RA) or their resident director (RD), said Director of Behavioral Health Dr. Robert Klein. He said it’s important to remember that personal information is protected by law, no matter what treatment a student chooses.

Once a student is referred to UHCS, an appointment with a counselor is set up to assess the student’s needs. The counselor then works with the student to determine the next course of action, which can include counseling, an appointment with a psychiatrist, a contact in the Spiritual Life office or, in rare circumstances, a medical leave of absence from the university.

“Our wish and policy is to do everything we can to try to aid a student in their success at Northeastern,” Klein said.

Athletic training major Sam Roso said a policy of helping, not evicting, is best for students.

“Someone who’s suicidal wants out, not help. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact you need to see a psychiatrist,” Roso said. “Really the only person close enough to notice [a person’s behavior] will be their roommate, who can notify their RA to get them help.”

Northeastern staff members are also available to calm parents’ anxiety for their students. Klotzbier said some instances arise when a student forgets to call home for a few days and worrying parents call the university to check up on their child. Northeastern will perform a “wellness check” for such parents by seeking out the student and reminding them to call home.

Recent Northeastern graduate Amal Shumar will soon join the “We Care” team as the student services coordinator in the Office of Student Affairs. The program will continue to develop under her watch as part of the university’s goal to improve campus life, Klotzbier said.

“One of her primary responsibilities will be the coordination of the ‘We Care’ initiative, an initiative that is focused on helping students work through any problems or unusual situations they may find themselves in,” Klotzbier said. “Amal is very enthusiastic and professional, and we know that students and their families will benefit from working with her.”

Klotzbier said he is excited to see the program develop and set the university apart from others across the country.

“‘We Care’ is just another example of Northeastern becoming more residential,” Klotzbier said. “We’re in a different place today.”

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