If you’re a college student
interested in free speech, consider coming to this. I”ll be talking
about themes in Matt Welch and my forthcoming book, The Declaration
of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with
America. Maximizing free expression is right there at the top of
the list. And I can tell you that Bob Corn-Revere, who recently
spoke at Reason’s annual donor event, is not only a brilliant First
Amendment lawyer – he puts on a helluva show, too!
Save the Date: 2011 Campus Freedom Network Conference, July
FIRE is proud to announce that the 2011 Campus Freedom
Network Conference will be held July
14-16 on the campus of Bryn Mawr College, just
outside of Philadelphia. The CFN Conference brings together
committed students from across the country to learn from eminent
First Amendment scholars and meet fellow advocates for free speech
The conference will begin with dinner on Thursday evening,
followed by a day and a half of lectures, panels, and break-out
sessions. Attendees will hear from distinguished keynote speakers,
a panel of students involved in previous FIRE cases, and FIRE staff
about the philosophical and legal arguments for First Amendment
rights on campus and how they can improve the culture of free
speech at their schools.
The Thursday night keynote speaker will
Gillespie, editor in chief of Reason.tv and
Reason.com, which… features the staff blog Hit &
Run, named by Washingtonian, Playboy, and
others as one of the best political blogs.
Friday night’s keynote speaker is Robert
Corn-Revere, a partner at the law firm of Davis Wright
Tremaine in Washington, D.C., and a First Amendment expert with
extensive experience in communications, media, and information
technology law. Corn-Revere is the lead attorney for former
Valdosta State University student Hayden
Barnes in Barnes v. Zaccari, a federal civil
rights case currently before the United States Court of Appeals for
the Eleventh Circuit.
We welcome all college students interested in defending free
speech on campus to apply to attend the conference. The conference
is FREE, and FIRE will also provide up to
$300 to reimburse expenses for attendees to travel to Bryn Mawr.
Space is limited, so you should register soon!
Apply today at thecfn.org/conference
One of them is Paul Toth, a staff psychologist at Indiana University, where therapists began using a computerized evaluation called the Behavioral Health Measure, or BHM, in November. He recalls one student whose depression scores were improving but whose overall well-being scores were not. Staffers then determined that, to truly get better, the student needed to deal with academic issues that had been caused by the depression.
Evaluations like these also shed light on topics that students may not verbalize in therapy, such as a lack of trust, or bonding, with their therapist. In some cases, Toth says he’s found out that a few students haven’t liked it when he’s suggested trying antidepressants with therapy.
“So then I can back off on that,” he says.
Perhaps most importantly, therapists say these instant evaluations show them more quickly when a student is seriously considering suicide.
“I can look at that on my computer before the student even walks into my office,” says Birky, whose new clients sit at private computer kiosks in the counseling center waiting room to take a different evaluation called the Counseling Center Assessment of Psychological Symptoms, or CCAPS.
CCAPS, which has versions with 34 and 62 questions, is used on dozens of campuses across the country, including Penn State, where researchers used national CCAPS data to generate an annual study on the mental health of students on campuses across the nation.
Among other things, the research found that about a quarter of U.S. college students sought mental health services last year.
“So as demand increases, you have to be more objective about deciding who’s in the greatest need,” says Ben Locke, the study’s lead author and the associate director of research and technology at Penn State’s Center for Counseling and Psychological Services.
The newer BHM was developed by Mark Kopta, a psychology professor at the University of Evansville in Indiana. So far, it is used on just 15 campuses, from the University of Minnesota and Johns Hopkins to tiny Fairmont State University in West Virginia.
But those who use it say it has some advantages over more established evaluations.
For one, it has a 20-question version that takes two minutes or less to complete, so it can be used more easily at every counseling session.
“It doesn’t take the place of an interview, but it makes the interview much more efficient,” says Kopta, head of CelestHealth Systems, which markets the BHM questionnaires with a package other tools that evaluate such things as the bond between counselor and client.
Factors students are asked to rate in the BHM include:
_”Alcohol or drug use interfering with your performance at school or work.”
_”Thoughts of ending your life.”
_”Powerful, intense mood swings or highs and lows.”
Results from that evaluation also are divided by categories, including suicide risk, depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol abuse. Each category is color-coded – green for normal, yellow for mild distress, orange for moderate distress and red for severe distress.
Glenn Hirsch, head of counseling services at the University of Minnesota, recalls one student whose suicide chart was flagged with red, but who initially denied she was severely suicidal.
Her scores also indicated that she was mistrustful of Hirsch and the counseling process, so he used those scores – and showed her her charts at each session – to get her to open up and deal with her suicidal thoughts.
“Showing that visually can really make a difference,” he says.
After initially dropping out of school, he says the student client returned to the university and passed all her classes. She also has regularly taken her medication, something she hadn’t done before.
There are other ways mental health professionals are using technology to help them evaluate clients, on and off college campuses.
A psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins has developed a free service called Mood 24/7 that sends a daily text message to its users, asking them to rate their mood on a scale of 1 to 10. The data can then be accessed by the user, their mental health counselor and even family and friends.
Dr. Adam Kaplin, who came up with the idea, says that typically clients are unlikely to remember how they were feeling between visits, or to use paper and pencil charts to keep track.
“It’s very simple. But there is power in simplicity,” Kaplin says of the system, which now has about 3,000 users, from college students to older clients. Among other things, he says the system helps psychiatrists do a better job of monitoring and adjusting psychotropic medications.
All of these methods are fine for those who seek help. But there’s also concern that the large majority of suicidal and depressed students still don’t seek counseling and, therefore never are evaluated.
“I’ve talked to graduating seniors who literally didn’t know that the mental health counseling center existed,” says 23-year-old Jeff Brozena, president and founder of Penn State’s chapter of Active Minds, an organization aimed at raising students’ awareness about mental health.
His chapter is one of a few that hosted a traveling exhibit called “Send Silence Packing,” made up of 1,100 backpacks representing the estimated number of college students who take their own lives each year.
Counseling centers also have expanded outreach.
At Pace University in New York, counseling director Richard Shadick and his staff give a presentation at each “University 101″ class for freshman and give them a survey to help them get a read on substance abuse and mental health problems they may be having. The mental health staff also spends time on campus giving mini screenings called “checkups from the neck up” and refers students who need help to the counseling center.
Elsewhere, the National College Depression Partnership has been working with campus health centers across the country to do their own quick mental health screenings when students come in for regular visits with the doctor.
Within the counseling field, there is no consensus about whether there really are more college students with mental health issues or whether they are simply increasingly willing to ask for help.
Some say that antidepressants and more support has made it more possible than ever for a student who is mentally ill to attend college. Others have noted that this generation of students seems less able to cope with stress, for whatever reason.
“Maybe, in some ways, these kids are a little bit less resilient,” says Birky, at Lehigh.
Whatever the reason, it’s an issue that’s being taken seriously.
A recent analysis of BHM questionnaires from 13,300 students who were treated at campus counseling centers found that those students were, indeed, having significant psychological problems. Just over two-thirds were clinically depressed at some level. Seventeen percent had drug and alcohol problems. About 20 percent were suicidal.
And those figures do not include the students who have yet to seek help.
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