Universities offer mental health resources

Champion Township Police received a call Feb. 7 from the father of a reported 21-year-old suicidal woman at Kent State Trumbull, according to a 911 Dispatch call sheet.

The woman tried to slit her wrist with a pen while sitting inside her car in the college parking lot, the call sheet reads. She then ran toward the lake behind campus, intending to jump in. According to the call sheet, the woman’s boyfriend stayed with her until police arrived.

“We respond very quickly,” Champion police Chief Jeff White said. He said the department regularly responds to calls for suicidal individuals at residences, businesses and schools.

After officers arrived, the woman voluntarily went to a hospital to be examined, but she did not admit to being suicidal, according to the call sheet.

“Even though they are making those threats, they don’t realize that they have serious problems,” White said.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among ages 10-34 after unintentional injury, and 8.8 percent of ages 18-25 report having thoughts about suicide.

However, fewer college students actually attempt suicide than people of the same age who are in the workforce — probably because students have resources available to them that others may not, said Ann Jaronski, director of Student Counseling at Youngstown State.

At YSU, concerned individuals can submit a Person of Concern form through the Office of Student Outreach and Support, said Jaronski.

Barbara Ozimek, counseling specialist at Kent State Trumbull, said Kent has a Care Team available for students, faculty and staff to alert counseling services if a student is displaying concerning behavior.

Still, the universities are not always aware of suicide attempts on campus. “Students don’t always report them, and hospitals only release information when students give them permission,” Ozimek said.

Because hospital and mental health records are confidential for anyone over the age of 18, parents also do not have access to their child’s information, including school counseling records.

“Student counseling records are considered mental health records, and Ohio Revised Code — state law — covers confidentially and privilege of those records,” Jaronski said. She added state laws tend to be more stringent than the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which covers confidentiality in educational records, or HIPPA, which applies to medical records.

However, these laws provide exceptions to confidentiality when there is imminent danger to an individual, said Jaronski.

“For example, law enforcement could do a wellness check on a person of concern,” said Jaronski. A person could also be forced to do an involuntary health check through a police “pink slip,” requiring them to stay in a hospital for up to three days, according to both Jaronski and White.

Counseling services at Kent Trumbull and YSU are well utilized, stressed Jaronoski and Ozimek.

“I can say that the number of students seeking counseling on campus has increased over the past five years,” Ozimek said.

At YSU, two clinicians are available to see students, said Jaronski, and they are almost always booked. In the 2017-18 school year, YSU Counseling saw 304 of the roughly 12,000 students on campus.

“I believe that if we had more licensed clinicians available to see students we would be serving more of our student body,” Jaronski said.

Still, both schools aim to create environments that improve students’ mental health. Kent Trumbull is working to create a food pantry so students will have access to food, an assurance that relieves stress, said Ozimek. Kent also has a yoga program, and YSU has a Meditation and Mindfullness Center.

“We hope to give our students coping mechanisms which will enhance their ability to manage stress,” Ozimek said, “… skills which they can utilize now and as they move forward in their careers.”