Western Counseling Center Helps Troubled Students

By: Ryan Dearbone Email
By: Ryan Dearbone Email

As schools across the country resume, it's hard for anyone to forget the horrible images from Virgina Tech's massacre shooting last April.

On Aug. 30, the school's review panel issues its final ruling on the event that forever changed the way schools secure their campuses.

The panel concluded that school officials failed to let students immediately know of the first shooting in the dormitory and instead, waited almost two hours.

The report also said officials failed to counsel the shooter after learning of his extreme emotional distress.

We looked into what Western does to counsel its students who show signs of mental illness and how it handles someone who could be a threat to themselves or other students.

Dr. Brian Van Brunt sees a lot of troubled students come through his door.

Some come in voluntarily for help, but many others don't.

"We don't try to detect mental illness. We don't go out there looking for people who are ill and try to bring them in," explained Van Brunt, with the Counseling and Testing Center.

Instead, they rely on professors, resident assistants and anyone else who can alert them about students who may be suffering from signs of mental illness.

A lot of times these red flags can be easily noticed.

"If a student is cutting themselves, if they're talking about killing themselves or if they're intimidating or threatening or stalking other students, these would be behaviors we would talk to the student about," he continued.

WKU's Student Handbook for 2007-2008 has a section on the university's role when it comes to dealing with students with emotional disturbances.

The handbook says Western can require a student to undergo an evaluation if school officials feel the student could become a danger to themselves or others.

At that point Western would provide treatment for the student at places like the Counseling and Testing Center.

He said when a student makes threats, they take it very seriously and alert those who need to know such as campus police and the dean of students.

"If a student comes into counseling, we tell them that if they talk about killing themselves or killing someone else, that we don't keep that confidential," Van Brunt added.

He said there is no full-proof way of stopping a horrific event like Virginia Tech, but everyone at Western is working hard to try to prevent a similar tragedy.

In addition to counseling troubled students, the university will be installing several services to protect all those on campus in case of an emergency situation.

A text message service, exterior public address system and siren, and digital signs are all expected to be installed by the end of the semester.

To read a copy of the findings from the Virginia Tech review panel click here.

View a copy of Western's policy on mental illness here.


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