Screen Shot 2019-09-10 at 5.41.00 PM

Source: CCSU Faculty

By: Allee Feuerman

On Monday, WCSU faculty and staff gathered to address mental health issues on campus in a presentation hosted by Laura DiGalbo, who invited all faculty and staff to begin a larger conversation about how special care for students with psychiatric issues should be directed. 

She holds a B.A. in psychology, an M.ED. in counseling, and has been working in the field of rehabilitation and service training for over 40 years. 

DiGalbo explained that a psychiatric disability is a mental health issue that makes it difficult for people to learn, work and communicate effectively. Students with mental issues have often been negatively impacted by social media or in their lives at home. She said that the problems derived from these negative stimuli can skew one’s reality or make one forget that, as she put it, “worth is not dependant on what [they] do, but dependant on who [they] are.” Often times, students with psychiatric disabilities are either unaware of their own own disability or oblivious to the accommodations for their disability.

WCSU provides students with a Student Care Team (SCT), Counseling Services and AccessAbility Services to help them adequately cope with their disabilities. Before referring students to one of these helpful campus resources, however, DiGalbo suggested that faculty and staff use methods of identifying and managing mental health issues in the classroom as a preliminary step.

Signs of Mental Health Issues:

Anxiety: Students will often have an extremely difficult time focusing

Depression: Students will have a difficult time focusing because of a lack of energy to do work or think.

Personality Disorder: Students will often disclose personal information in a classroom setting; they also will challenge the class/professor with opposing viewpoints to feed their need to feel smarter.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: It is obvious the students primary concern is safety. These students will often sit in the back of the classroom to have full viewing of everything happening around them.

Strategies to Address Mental Health Issues:

Anxiety: Tell students what to expect from the class. A syllabus is important because it shows students in detail what will happen next. Students with anxiety fear the unknown, so maintaining clear instructions is helpful so that students are able to pre-process.

Depression: Give students constant break time. For example, if an exam is meant to be two hours, allow the student to take short breaks every 20 minutes so they can relax and recuperate. The student will still only get two hours, but it is broken into sections.

Personality Disorder: In order to stop students from talking about themselves during class time, order a class break where everyone is allowed to leave the classroom for five minutes. Most of the time, students will drop the subject when class picks up again and if they don’t, make time to speak to them individually after class.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: It is vital that professors do not use “demand responses”. This means do not pick on students who have not volunteered to participate because it creates unnecessary stress for the student.

DiGalbo stressed how important it is to make students feel comfortable in a campus environment. If a student approaches you about their personal issues, please allow the student to speak freely while you listen intently. If you believe it to be necessary, refer students to the support system offered by WCSU to help them handle their situation appropriately.