Editor’s Note: This article contains references to mental health issues and suicide.
If you or someone you know is having a mental health emergency, the Counseling Center can be reached 24 hours a day at 919-515-2423. If you are in a crisis situation and need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. In the case of a life-threatening emergency, call 911.
There have been 12 student deaths this academic year with several being first-year students living on campus. Resident Advisor Gustavo Armas shares his thoughts on community building initiatives and how the University provided information to the NC State community. Director of Residence Life, Meghan Luzader, explains University Housing’s role within the University’s postvention protocol.
RA responds to University Housing and NC State’s response to student deaths
Gustavo Armas, a second-year studying business administration and international studies, said being a support system for individuals living in the dorms as student deaths became frequent was a lot to handle on top of his other responsibilities.
“Me personally, with everything that I had going on in my personal life, … I had two jobs on top of my school and I have a club I’m involved in, and I want to take care of family and also have a social life, ... they’re a lot to handle,” Armas said.
Armas said the University could have handled communicating with students and RAs about the student deaths better.
“They weren't communicating with the students that these things were happening, and they kept telling the RAs,” Armas said. “So, every time there was a student death, they would send us an email, and nobody else in the school knew. We were like, ‘What am I supposed to do with this information?’ ... I think that their approach in that sense was not the best. … They could have informed us better because we don't know if we shouldn't be telling people or what we should be doing.”
Armas said, although University Housing and the University as a whole has done a lot to provide new initiatives and resources to students, it doesn’t seem to be enough to meet the demands of what students need.
“They have been trying to offer a lot more events for the community for people to gather, to take a break, even if it's just a pizza party or anything like that,” Armas said. “I know that after what happened this school year, the school in general has been implementing a lot of mental health support and multiple resources, but sometimes, as much as they said they're trying to offer more and more, … they have not met the supply for the demand of students that need the support that they're asking for.”
Armas said University Housing has lessened RAs’ workload to alleviate the stress from the past year, which has helped a lot.
“I know we've been going through a lot of stressful times overall this whole year, but we’ve been given a little bit of a break in the sense of all the tests we got to do and the support system that we have,” Armas said. “And overall, they're letting us focus more on classes and finals are coming up, so as an RA, I definitely do feel like my workflow has been diminished a little bit, which I do appreciate.”
One initiative University Housing has implemented over the years is Pack Chats. This gives students living on campus several opportunities throughout the school year to check in one-on-one with their RA and talk to them about anything they’re struggling with or to just catch up. Armas said Pack Chats are a great tool for the students.
“If they want to communicate any issues or anything that they have, they can come to me for that,” Armas said. “I do think it's a really great tool the University implemented to try to get that connection with the resident and RA to be better.”
Armas said the mental health crisis goes beyond NC State and worrying about school, and the University should consider that when looking how to best support students.
“This is not only NC State, this is happening all around the nation,” Armas said. “And it's like there are all these things happening, … [and] as much as people don't want to be involved in the news, people start hearing these things. … It's not just us thinking about and stressing about school or stuff going on at home, it's just like, in general. Everything that's happening around the world is like, pretty f---- up right now.”
University Housing collaborates with campus partners as part of postvention protocols
The University follows a postvention protocol when a student passes. Meghan Luzader, director of Residence Life for University Housing, said University Housing is only one part of the broader postvention guidelines.
“We are one of many campus partners that are activated when it's an on-campus resident who passes,” Luzader said. “Typically, I am one of the staff members that goes, whether it's responding on site or responding to the residence hall, depending on the context, to help with that support, along with a few other folks typically within our broader Division of Academic and Student Affairs.”
The framework the University, including University Housing, follows as postvention protocols is based on research from nationwide organizations, Luzader said.
“We do have a broader framework that we use to help guide that is rooted in best practices from a number of broader national organizations and research around postvention response,” Luzader said. “There are several steps that really make a big difference in our response and to help ensure that we're doing the steps that are needed and appropriate.”
Luzader said postvention protocols last beyond when an incident initially occurs and includes collaborating with campus partners like the Counseling Center.
“That framework provides structure for us in the subsequent days and months because we also know for the folks who are here that are impacted, that grief stays for a long time,” Luzader said. “And we've got several internal and external resources and frameworks that exist to help guide our response and ensure that we are doing the best we can for the individual who's passed, for their families and for the folks on campus here who've been impacted.”
Visit the Division of Academic and Student Affairs website at https://dasa.ncsu.edu/ for more information on the University’s postvention process.
Are you a student or an RA living on campus and would like to make a statement? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information.
If you or someone you know is having difficulty processing grief or having a mental health emergency, the Counseling Center can be reached 24 hours a day at 919-515-2423. If you are in a crisis situation and need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. In the case of a life-threatening emergency, call 911.
The Counseling Center’s website offers free online screenings, a plethora of self-help resources regarding mental health and wellness concerns and a comprehensive list of campus services available for those who need guidance. To view an exhaustive list, visit counseling.dasa.ncsu.edu/resources.
If you’re seeking professional counseling or other mental health services on campus, visit the Counseling Center’s Getting Started page at counseling.dasa.ncsu.edu/about-us/gettingstarted to complete paperwork, set up an appointment and more.
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