The Daily Evergreen

Learning to assess mental health

Throughout the semester, resident hall employees train to face student mental health situations, issues

Rogers+Hall+Resident+Adviser+Madalyn+Graf+distributes+mail+to+residences.+RAs+train+to+prepare+for+crises+but+can+only+report+them.
Rogers Hall Resident Adviser Madalyn Graf distributes mail to residences. RAs train to prepare for crises but can only report them.

Rogers Hall Resident Adviser Madalyn Graf distributes mail to residences. RAs train to prepare for crises but can only report them.

LAURA BATE | The Daily Evergreen

LAURA BATE | The Daily Evergreen

Rogers Hall Resident Adviser Madalyn Graf distributes mail to residences. RAs train to prepare for crises but can only report them.

KAYLA SIMONSON, Evergreen reporter

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Resident advisers and residential education directors at WSU undergo training to learn how to appropriately assess mental health situations they may encounter on the job.

Brandon Brackett, WSU assistant director of Residence Life, said RAs and REDs are taught to document and confront situations and issues regarding mental health by referring residents to other resources.

“They are mandated reporters,” he said, “not counselors.”

He said RAs and REDs are instructed to report or refer residents to Counseling and Psychological Services or to the Pullman Police Department, depending on the situation.

The main issues RAs and REDs confront are depression, sexual abuse and violence, Brackett said.

It is not in an RA’s job description to counsel students themselves, he said. It could create a strain on them if they were asked to.

He said RAs spend a day learning how to assess mental health situations, although REDs have a more rigorous training.

Fernando Martinez, the RED of Scott-Coman Hall, said they receive about seven weeks of training.

Their training begins in July and includes two weeks of working with the hall directors, two weeks with the assistant hall directors and three weeks with the RAs, he said. For part of their training, they discuss the correct response to mock scenarios of potential crises.

They also work with Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse, a service that helps provide support for victims of any type of violence.

Martinez said both RAs and REDs meet with staff from Counseling and Psychological Services to learn about mental health.

Throughout the year, RAs have weekly staff meetings, as well as a winter training to review the most serious matters, Brackett said.

Both Martinez and Grace Taylor, the RA of Northside Residence Hall, said they feel equipped to confront a potential mental health crisis.

During weekly staff meetings, Martinez said he noticed RAs try to debrief situations and ask questions about whether they responded appropriately and if the resident is OK.

Martinez said he has been in counselor-type roles, where he has assessed crises six or seven times within the past year and a half while working at WSU as an RED.

He said that in the beginning of the semester, there are not as many cases, but when the weather starts to change in late October and November, there are more.

“It’s in the nature of the work,” he said.

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Learning to assess mental health