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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Counseling has changed, IUP trustees learn

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Samuel Smith, chair of the Board of Trustees of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, said after hearing the report of Dr. Jessica Miller, director of the IUP’s Counseling Center, during a panel session at Thursday’s board meeting.

But, as Smith also pointed out, things have changed.

“IUP has really invested in the mental health of its students and we have the management support to address the mental health needs of students,” said Miller, a psychologist who does serious service — and some lighter touches.

Two surveys left for the trustees to think about are examples of the lighter touch – surveys that have been distributed to students who go to the counseling center.

One asks, what kind of snack are you? carrot? pretzel? chip?

It refers to the amount of cannabis one may have used over the past six months, and how it may have affected one’s behaviour, even “the number of hours I have been ‘stoned’ on a normal day” when cannabis or marijuana is likely to have been used.

The answers correspond to the point scale:

• The man who gets eight or more or the woman who gets nine or more is listed under “chips,” using marijuana in higher amounts than others and probably needing more and more of it for the same “high” one had before.

• A person who gets five points or more can be called a pretzel, and is not afraid to lose sometimes, but “may face negative consequences” because of marijuana use.

• A person who gets up to four points can be called a carrot, marijuana may not be a factor for them, or it is not used often, and “even infrequent use of marijuana can lead to negative consequences.”

Another survey asks, What kind of party animal are you? Fish? moose? dog?

How many times has a person had an alcohol-containing drink in the past year? How many drinks did a person have in a typical drinking day in the past year? How often does one have six or more drinks on any occasion?

Again, the answers correspond to the point scale:

• A person who gets six or more points can be called a fish, who may be at high risk of alcohol-related problems.

• Someone with a score of four to five (for men, three to five for women) could be called a mousse, who might find partying “extremely cool,” pun intended, but “at moderate risk of many health and emotional concerns.”

• A person who gets 0 to 3 points (for men, 0 to 2 points for women) can be called a dog, who is “really relaxed and likes to do other things besides drinking at a party.”

Both surveys come with reminders for the user:

• Marijuana is a Schedule 1 illegal drug under federal law, which can put the user at risk for legal and campus policy violations, and result in hundreds of dollars in fines.

“Can you bear to fall?” Request this survey.

• This risk of violations of law and campus policy also exists for consumers of alcohol under the age of 21.

“We want to be able to interview students at all levels,” Miller said. This can range from “very basic skill building and support” to more significant health challenges.

These challenges can include depression and anxiety – but academic distress is also a factor in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Miller said 72 percent of those who use the center have mental health issues affected by COVID.

Miller’s efforts are part of the Student Wellbeing effort and participation in the Center for Health and Wellbeing on the Wings in Maple East.

Director of Health and Student Engagement Ann Sisty addressed two programs under the umbrella of her office.

One is the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Program that provides leadership to the university community in reducing the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and related negative consequences.

The other was health and wellness promotion. As Sesti reported, she later included Guardian Laurie Kuzneski in her Student Affairs Committee report to the Board of Trustees, which provides weekly interactive educational programs for students to gain awareness of the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

said Kosinsky, who presented the committee’s report on behalf of that committee’s chair, Maura King, who was absent from Thursday’s board meeting.

Other works include Feel Good Fridays, where one can convey good wishes to others.

“Suicide prevention efforts were also discussed,” Kosinski said.

Another program will be available come fall.

“Togetherall is a secure online community for sharing feelings anonymously and getting support to improve mental health and well-being,” the program states on their website. “In the community, people support each other, and are safely monitored by licensed and registered mental health practitioners.”

It’s freely available to students through participating universities and colleges across the United States.

“It’s an online peer-supported community,” Miller said. “We are excited about our new opportunity.”

The Student Affairs Committee also includes IUP Athletics.

Athletic Director Todd Garzarelli gave an update on the university’s winter and spring sports, including the men’s basketball team preparing for the NCAA Division II Elite Eight; The women’s team finished 21-9 and advanced to the NCAA Championship for the seventh consecutive season; Four swimmers combined for seven US trophies at the NCAA Championships in North Carolina; And achievements in the internal field for men.

He also said some spring sports have already been nearly a month into their seasons, with the baseball team at 5-5 so far, lacrosse opening with two wins, and Florida women’s softball and tennis ending their spring break trips; Men’s golf plays on “some really cool professional courses” in the South; and starting with women’s tennis ranked 19th nationally “the highest ranking for them in the program’s history”.

Garzarelli also touched on the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion from the perspective of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, including the PSAC’s formation of the Social Justice Task Force in December 2020 and consultations regarding the PSAC task force’s strategic plan throughout 2021.

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