Service guide to help faculty deal with student issues

Subtle signs of distress include missing class regularly, assignments



Jennifer Ellsworth, director of counseling and psychological services, expresses concerns with the steady incline of mental health issues among students and how to combat it.

ELAYNE RODRIGUEZ, Evergreen reporter

A Cougar Health Services representative discussed new resources faculty can use to help students with mental health Thursday at the Faculty Senate meeting.

Jennifer Ellsworth, director of counseling and psychological services, said there has been a resource developed for WSU faculty to support some of the mental health needs of students on campus.

Ellsworth said they are trying to promote mental health to prevent drastic measures and to bring different individuals to work together in this effort.

“At WSU, we are certainly experiencing increases of number of students who are coming to campus with mental health concerns and who are seeking counseling services once they get here,” she said.

A mental health service guide was constructed for faculty to inform students where to go if they experience emotional distress, fatigue or depression.

Ellsworth said there are three ways faculty can respond when dealing with students who show signs of mental health issues.

“Recognize signs of distress, respond in the moment and connect the [students] to school resources,” Ellsworth said. “It is important to listen and believe the students’ responses.”

She said she noticed that faculty may have encountered students who may be going through mental health problems during the school year.

“A student who consistently attends classes, consistently turns in homework, earns good grades and then suddenly missing class pretty regularly and not turning [in] assignments — that [can] be a subtle sign of distress,” Ellsworth said.

Season Hoard, a clinical assistant professor at the WSU School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs, said a lot of mental health training workshops are expensive to attend. The mental health service guide would benefit faculty to assist students, she said.

Ellsworth said there has been about a 59 percent increase of walk-in appointments from 2013 to 2018.

WSU had a higher focus on mental health services and developed two new positions in the health commissions unit in 2015, she said. The plan focused more on mental health and suicide prevention.

Ellsworth said a mental health collaborative group, which involves students, faculty and law enforcement from all over the U.S., meets once a semester to focus on domains that need to be addressed to improve mental health services for students.

“It includes developing life skills, promoting social connectedness, identifying students who are at risk, increasing help-seeking behavior [and] following prices-management procedures,” she said.