Student counselors retool

Dylan Boyle

One year after the Virginia Tech shootings, Iowa State’s Student Counseling Services is continuing to make the changes necessary to prevent violence on campus.

Terry Mason, director of Student Counseling Services, said he knew the organization had to make changes after the shootings.

“We followed the story very closely, regarding all the various reviews of Virginia Tech,” Mason said. “There’s a group on campus called the Critical Incident Response Team that went through and reviewed everything. We looked at the things recommended after Virginia Tech and looked at how they would apply here at ISU.”

Mason said one area the organization still needs to improve is in acquiring funding which would be put directly toward hiring more staff members.

“Our staff is very dedicated and works really hard, but we’ve seen about a 10 percent increase in students coming in every year and, unfortunately, we don’t have a 10 percent increase in staff every year,” he said.

Mason said the increase in student clientele has led to an increased workload for SCS personnel, but the fact that students are seeking help is viewed as a positive.

Mason said that, although SCS has a good relationship with the Thielen Student Health Center, the Department of Residence and the Department of Public Safety, there is a need for a case manager to follow patients and serve as a liaison between the departments.

“Right now, we have counselors, nurses and physicians following patients and, although they do a good job, it takes time away from their other duties,” Mason said.

Effective communication between departments is essential, Mason said, because without proper communication, patients can slip through the cracks. He believes adding a case manager would alleviate this problem.

Mason commended ISU Police Cmdr. Gene Deisinger on his work training ISU Police on how to deal with students with mental health issues.

“The officers that work for Gene are probably some of the most knowledgeable officers when it comes to knowing how to handle students suffering from mental health issues,” Mason said.

ISU Police Captain Rob Bowers said the issue of mental health is one that requires different care from a law-enforcement perspective.

“Not everybody who is having mental- or psychological-type problems needs to be in the hospital,” Bowers said. “Somebody may need to be referred back to their psychological provider. Part of it is finding out what is it that’s causing the crisis or the difficulty.”

The bottom line for mental health is proper funding and awareness, Mason said, who is hoping a proposal to increase funding for counseling services is approved by ISU President Geoffroy.

Mason said having an adequate staff and proper funding will never be a 100-percent guarantee that violent incidents won’t occur, but he believes that “if you don’t do anything, tragedies can happen.”

Mason said he is very encouraged by the cooperation of agencies on campus and the effort staff members put in toward the cause.

“I’ve worked on many campuses, and this is by far the best,” Mason said.