September 10th, 2020
Dear Bobcat parent and family members,
There was encouraging news released at the end of last week in a report on the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Gallatin County. Last Friday, the Gallatin City-County Health Department reported 29 active COVID-19 cases, and, of those, just six cases were affiliated with MSU. Look for an updated report to be released tomorrow, Friday, on this Healthy Gallatin webpage.
Also, many of you have reached out with questions about the Bridger Foothills fire. Gratefully, the weather has cooperated, calming the fire and helping firefighters. Our thoughts are with all the residents of Bridger Canyon, some of whom lost homes and other property last weekend.
Finally, I have heard from dozens of parents this fall regarding mental health programs and services for our students. As President Cruzado wrote earlier this week in her message to the campus community, "At MSU, we support the whole student, including their mental health and well-being." To provide you with more information about the comprehensive services available to students, I've invited Dr. Betsy Asserson, director of MSU's Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), to respond to these questions while also discussing what's coming up in September during Suicide Prevention Month. -Matt Caires
Hello, MSU parent and family members,
MSU has a strong commitment to supporting student mental health and well-being. I have spent the last 19 years working in college mental health as a psychologist, and I am proud to say that I have seen a significant culture shift on our campus. Students are more open to seeking help and encouraging their friends to do so as well. Parents and families have more open discussions about mental health with their students. While we know college is generally a protective factor against suicide, nationally, it remains the second leading cause of death for college students. September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and I am happy to take this opportunity to share information and resources for supporting students' mental health.
COVID-19 has been challenging for everyone. Young adults and racial minorities have experienced more increased mental health symptoms -- including suicidal ideation -- than other groups. Many college students have also experienced increased stress and anxiety, loss of significant life events and financial stress. While this is alarming, it is important to remember that there are many things we can do to support students and their mental health during this challenging time.
Counseling and Psychological Services provides free counseling to students and is typically utilized by over 10% of the student population. We offer a range of services, including individual and group counseling, outreach and prevention programming and crisis intervention. Our staff of licensed mental health professionals specializes in college mental health. During the pandemic, we have shifted our services to telehealth and can provide timely and accessible counseling while minimizing risk. We offer limited private video conferencing space for students who may not have access to a confidential location for their telehealth sessions.
Sometimes students may be hesitant to seek formal counseling. At CPS, we offer a drop-in consultation time with a counselor known as "Let's Talk." This informal consultation is a wonderful option for someone who may want to explore if counseling is right for them or get advice from a counselor. MSU students can also access WellTrack, an online or app-based self-help platform with mental health modules and mood tracking capability. If your student is having concerns with anxiety, depression, social isolation, stress, or any other concern, encourage them to utilize these resources and to be in touch with CPS at 406-994-4531 to connect them with one of our counselors.
Suicide prevention month is an opportunity for us to continue to engage our entire campus in fostering a culture of support. Students, faculty and staff can receive suicide prevention training to assist them in identifying someone who may be struggling with depression or suicidal thinking. We are offering workshops throughout the semester for students to learn tips and gain support in managing their mental health during COVID-19. Our next workshop will be on September 29; please encourage your student to attend!
I have heard from many parents and family members this fall who are concerned for their students' mental health during the pandemic. What can you do to support them? Check in with them and ask specific questions to get a better understanding of how they are doing: How are they feeling with their friends? What is it like for them to find friends while wearing a mask and social distancing? How are they sleeping? What is their mood like? Have they engaged with any resources on campus yet? Let them know that they can reach out to the myriad campus resources, including CPS.
Finally, there are many 24-hour resources available for students who may experience a mental health crisis or need immediate access to support after hours: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), National Crisis Text Line (741741), Bozeman Help Center (406-586-3333 or 211), or 911 for emergencies.
Although we know it will be a year of many challenges and unknowns, we also know that our culture of support and strong community will help us get through it together.
Dr. Betsy Asserson