Rhett Burden, Assistant Director of Housing and Residence Life, Academy of Art University / Campus Living Villages
As the old saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers” and a GIANT sigh of relief for residence life professionals as we exult over closing our buildings. I know that Resident Directors all around the housing world just said “AMEN.”
In addition to our excitement about closing our halls, sharing fond memories, and celebrating the graduates, we get sanctuary from seemingly a semester-long mental health crisis. Whether you’re a res-lifer at a small private, mid-size public, state flagship or large for profit institution, we all share the same prodigious burden of amplified mental health challenges for student population.
Residents with mental health challenges and Housing & Residence Life professionals are beginning to be as inseparable as peanut butter and jelly. My background in Student Affairs Theory and Development affords me wonderful opportunities to converse Chickering’s Theory of Identity Development with colleagues, academics, scholars and interviewers. However, this knowledge of theory lends me little guidance when a student suffers from psychological impairments, is coping with the side effects of Zanex, Calonopen, Zoloft or any number of antidepressants, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic, and mood stabilizing suppressants or experiencing a complete mental breakdown.
Many of us res-lifers are autodidactic when it comes to dealing with students who suffer from metal health challenges. The very nature of our profession is to educate, safe-guard and support our residents in any way possible, especially when we see them exhibiting abnormal behavior. Until recently, I felt my colleagues and I were drowning in an interminable pool of students who we just weren’t qualified to help. That’s until the Resident Director team attended the PESI Mental Health Emergency Conference in Oakland, California.
PESI (it’s not an acronym, it’s actually the name) is not the ultimate solution to the problem, but it is a wonderful resource of professionals who want to make a difference and educate those of us that need the help. I highly recommend all housing professionals who deal with students that need a bit more attention or are suffering from challenges they’re ill-equipped to address, to attend a PESI conference.
Since 1979, PESI Inc. has provided cutting-edge continuing education to professionals across the nation in mental health and rehabilitation services. They work alongside the world’s leading experts to create seminars, conferences, videos and books that meet the needs of adult learners. All of their continuing education seminars and products assure that professionals can meet the changing demands of their work by providing practical strategies, methods and interventions.
As a non-profit organization, their mission is to educate and instruct the general public, public organizations, private industry, students and professionals in areas of mental health, substance abuse and mindfulness. They have the most robust continuing education library available anywhere.
Resident Director Testimonials:
Attending the Mental Health Emergencies seminar provided me with the opportunity to learn some of the basic frameworks for navigating and accessing mental health crisis situations. It allowed me to acquire a better understanding of how best to ensure my wellbeing and mental health before and after responding to such situations.
– Mario Fuentez, Resident Director
I really enjoyed attending the Mental Health conference; it made me aware of areas we do not necessarily focus on when it comes to our housing training. I was able to take away information that I can implement and be mindful of when I have student conduct meeting; respond on-site for a crisis; and my overall interactions with residents. Since my field of study is mental health through social work; the information provided helped me to stay up to date with new findings of urban drugs and prescriptions I have not heard of and possible outcomes and effects on the residents. I really think mental health training is vital for our CLV campus and certainly assists with on-call experiences.
– Saasha Lambert, Resident Director
As a Resident Director, we are faced with an anticipated array of medical and mental health emergency crises. In a situation that may not seem as second nature, I feel comfortable in my abilities to assess and respond accordingly after attending PESI: Mental Health Conference. Delving into the world of “crisis formation” and its nuances, such as, precipitating events, perception, emotional distress, and lowered functioning analysis. I am able to dissect residents social behavior/cue’s, mannerisms and react with proper response/insight. I have left with the motto, “low and slow,” when facilitating student meetings, specifically emphasizing the need for slower speech and a lower, non-threatening tone when dealing with emotionally stimulated residents. I feel confident due to the information received at PESI.
– Josh P. Jackson, Resident Director
Going to the PESI Mental Health Emergencies 1 day conference was very important as a support system to my students and for myself. It validated the taxation that occurs when dealing with some of these incidents first hand and also better prepared me on how to approach students in their different methods of asking for help. I believe that these types of conferences and learning opportunities are very vital in the profession of Residential Life as there is an ever increasing trend in mental health concerns and consumption of different substances linked with increasing these emergencies.
– Gustavo Orellana, Resident Director
As you can tell, we think highly of the services PESI offers and truly believe that attendees of their conferences will walk away with more than they walked in with.
You can find out more information about PESI here:
Pictured Left to Right – Academy of Art University, Department of Housing and Residence Life,
Rose Barry, Gustavo Orellana, Saasha Lambert, Mario Fuentez, Josh Jackson