Mount launches online mental health and wellness initiative

November 30, 2017

The Office of Counseling Services at Mount Saint Mary College recently launched a new initiative offering students online counseling benefits.

Counseling Services launched The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Interactive Screening Program (ISP) earlier this semester. It is being used in conjunction with the college’s existing online aid and screening programs.

Through ISP, a questionnaire is sent to selected groups of students who are statistically less likely to avail themselves of the college’s counseling services. The Office of Counseling Services is notified when a student completes the questionnaire and sends a personally tailored response via email. 

Students remain anonymous while they interact with the counselors online, discuss the results of the survey, and learn ways that the Office of Counseling Services can aid them. If they wish, students are always welcome to continue the conversation in person. 

The goal is to create a comfortable, safe discussion for students who may otherwise be unlikely to use the Mount’s counseling services, notes Orin Strauchler, assistant dean of Student Support Services and Director of Counseling at the Mount.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in institutions where ISP is utilized, 8-10 percent of students who are sent the link fill out the questionnaire, and 25 percent of those participants engage in a dialogue with a counselor following completion. Additionally, the students who received this counselor feedback were three times more likely to avail themselves of in-person services, and 27 percent were found to be at significant risk for depression and suicide.

Strauchler became aware of ISP through the local Hudson Valley chapter of the AFSP and was assisted in obtaining a program fee waiver by former Mount counselor Tamara Battiste-Locke. Mount counselors Caitlin Cassidy-Kramer and Benjamin Greenwald are overseeing the program.

Strauchler is passionate about his work, and his counseling promotion efforts extend beyond the Mount. He recently presented at the 68th Annual Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors Conference in Denver, Colo. on encouraging college students to “be brave” when it comes to talking about difficult subjects, including mental health.

Mount Saint Mary College is dedicated to the mental and physical wellbeing of its students. In addition to the ISP initiative, the Mount’s Student Support Services recently received a $300,000 grant for violence awareness and prevention. Awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice over the course of three years, the grant will be used to fund the college’s multidisciplinary approach to combat all forms of dating, domestic, and sexual violence/stalking on campus and beyond. The program will increase students’ knowledge on how to identify, prevent, and report violence. It will benefit all students, with particular attention paid to the needs of historically underserved populations.

In addition, through a partnership between the Mount and Safe Homes of Orange County, Safe Homes volunteers came to the campus twice in November to provide a confidential support group for survivors of sexual, relationship, and domestic violence and stalking.