The number of well-being checks, requests for Northwest’s University Police Department to check on a student, have increased this year in comparison to last.
Well-being checks are most commonly issued when there is legitimate concern from citizens that a person is showing suicidal behavior or is a threat to themselves.
University Police Chief Clarence Green said last academic year, 2017-18, there were 115 well-being checks. To date this academic year, there have been 122 well-being checks.
“Based on our data and seeing our increase, I have more of a concern,” Green said.
If there is enough evidence for officers to believe the person reported is an immediate threat to themselves, the person will be placed on a 96-hour mental health hold at the local hospital. So far this academic year, there have been 48 mental health committals. Last academic year, 2017-18, there were 52 mental health committals.
“Suicide is prevalent in our community, especially in the age group of folks that we’re dealing with,” Green said. “A lot of times folks are newly transitioning on their own, sometimes they can be dealing with the onset of mental illness that comes with the age of 18 and 19.”
Assistant Director of Wellness Services Kristen Peltz said Wellness Services is seeing the same increasing trend in well-being checks as UPD.
“We keep track of our own emergency crisis walk-ins and our number are the same way,” Peltz said. “They are going up and have been going up every year for the last five years.”
Green said he thinks the reason for the increase in well-being checks has to do with the harsh winter students experienced. The sometimes hazardous weather resulted in the University closing campus and canceling classes for three non-consecutive full days.
“We have a really squashed trimester,” Green said. “I’ve heard a lot of students feeling a lot more anxiety since we have been out of class; they feel like a lot of work has been compressed. The amount we’ve missed and the workload now is putting a lot of added stress.”
Peltz said she thinks the continual increase of well-being checks can be attributed largely to students being more receptive.
“I think they (students) are much more inclined to say things aren't going as well they want them to be,” Peltz said. “I think our faculty and staff are getting much more in tune with where the students are and when they need help, to send them over. That has increased our numbers a bit.”
To help students learn coping mechanisms and combat added stress, Wellness Services started offering free classes to students this academic year.
“I think that it is going to take a little bit of time. Most students, I think, still don’t know that we have them,” Peltz said. “We push it from our side but emotional well-being is truly the responsibility of the entire campus.”
UPD is helping to promote those wellness sessions to avoid duplicating efforts.
“We’re going to make sure to use our social media platform to put out a lot more kindness and to think about civility, kindness, self-help, help promote the programs we already have in place so that we can get maximum attendance at those,” Peltz said. “I think that is what is important in our campus community so that we can be successful.”