Dr. Janine Donahue
Advocating for student mental health
“I like to consider our Health Center as a home base for our students who are in need or who have chronic medical or health issues,” said Dr. Janine Donahue, a psychiatrist and director of counseling at Bradley Health Services. “I feel strongly about educating, preventing, and de-stigmatizing mental health problems and illnesses. The good news is that students are utilizing our services.”
Donahue said she sees students who are heading toward drug or alcohol dependency or addiction. “Some students who have been abusing substances and have an underlying mental health problem have been willing to stop the substance use or abuse, and I am then able to more aggressively assess and treat the underlying problem,” she commented. “Other students have been unable or unwilling to change their substance use pattern and subsequently only experience a partial response for the treatment of the underlying mental health problem. On our campus, students are generally not self-referred for substance abuse problems. Most of our referrals come from friends, relatives, hall staff, the judicial branch of residential living and leadership, or the Wellness Program. Because of my past clinical experience in settings other than Bradley Health Services, I am accustomed to using a team approach to help assess, monitor, motivate, and ensure safety of an individual. It is generally the best approach when a student is in crisis.”
Assessment is the key to determining how Donahue and the counseling/health services staff help students. In 2005, Bradley’s Parents Association funded Donahue’s certification training for a standardized assessment tool, the quick version of the Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN-Q). Used nationwide, the GAIN helps in assessing, diagnosing, and making treatment recommendations. Screening questions explore everything from general stressors and physical health to anxiety disorders and attention deficit disorders. She described the screening as a “computerized interview to get a short look at not only the substance abuse, but also other things that may be going on. Often behaviors or mental health problems co-occur with the substance abuse or addictions. The substance abuse may be causing the mental health or behavioral problems, or the student may be abusing substances in an attempt to diminish the symptoms of a mental health problem such as anxiety.” Donahue said the data is computer analyzed and gives a personal feedback summary, but it’s not foolproof. The more honest the student is, the more honest the view. The student has an opportunity to review the results for validation. The profile supports Donahue in her clinical decision making.
“Everybody’s doing it”
Donahue stressed that her number one priority is to educate the student, and counseling is completely confidential. She added, “Often students engaged in substance abuse feel immune to the situation or are in denial because they exist in a culture where they say, ‘I’m a college student—everybody’s doing it.’ What I try to do when I work with them is to educate them about the medical pitfalls. I talk about the psychiatric and negative impact. I try to work with them to gain some understanding of their own bodies and their physical and mental health. Sometimes it may not be an addiction, but the students’ use of alcohol or drugs is leading to problems in their lives.”
All appointments on campus are part of the student fee. The Health Center covers screening, but not medication. Although the center assesses, triages, and treats what it can on campus, she emphasized that in addition to the campus Wellness Center, the Peoria area offers a wealth of mental health and substance abuse resources. “There are some things we can do on campus, and if so, we’ll do it; however, if we think a student’s level of needs would be better met in the community, then we make a referral. We recognize that we, at Bradley, are part of the Peoria community, and use a medical model for referrals. Above all, I try to teach students to be an advocate for their physical and mental health and a part of their own healing.”
Visit bradley.edu/eddev/cwc.html for Health Services information.
Campus approaches to alcohol and drugs
When Nathan Thomas, executive director of residential living and leadership, discusses substance abuse on campus, his main focus is to educate Bradley students about the judicial processes concerning alcohol and drugs. His office outlines the consequences that follow underage drinking and illegal drug usage. While problems with alcohol go through a three-strike process, problems with drugs are a two-strike process.
“Unfortunately,” said Thomas, “Some students must suffer some of the consequences before they realize they have a problem and how their problem is affecting the people around them. They know the laws. They are made aware that we invite the University police, who are also Peoria police, into our buildings. Officers are here for safety reasons, and they also know how to deal with these situations.”
The first time an underage student is caught drinking, the student receives a $325 ticket from the city of Peoria. The Bradley police have each student they ticket take a personal breathalyzer test. Thomas’ office becomes directly involved with students who have committed a second drinking offense.
“What we’re trying to do judicially is to be the help. For the second offense, we have a program called Fresh Start, a peer-to-peer program run by Melissa Sage-Bollenbach ’94 MA ’97, director of Bradley’s Wellness Program. This program focuses on drinking behaviors. It does not focus on ‘don’t drink.’ Underage students know they should not drink. They’ve heard the message and have chosen to ignore it. We recognize that attitude, so the peer-to-peer program focuses on the consequences of student behavior. Students are put in real situations based upon the individual. The program provides students with Bradley statistics, national statistics, and most importantly, offers one-on-one support.”
Melissa Sage-Bollenbach ’94 MA ’97
When a drinking ticket involves a student being transported to the hospital, parents are notified, and the student is immediately referred to the Fresh Start program, to counseling, and to treatment. The level of intoxication dictates the level of support services mandated. If a student receives a third ticket, parents are notified, and the student is referred to Dr. Janine Donahue, director of counseling for Bradley Health Services.
Another key to success involves four campus groups who are making a difference. The wellness programs, counseling, housing, and sorority and fraternity leaders have built a strong working relationship and are committed to working on these issues. As a result, some of the University policies have changed and now allow parent notification.
Two strikes for drug usage
Concerning drug abuse, some of the consequences are similar to the alcohol conse-quences. Sage-Bollenbach developed a marijuana educational program that mirrors the Fresh Start program. Students are also immediately referred to counseling where they go through assessment, as well. With the second offense, students are likely to be dismissed from school, whether the offense occurred on or off-campus. “Some things we need to do punitively, but our main focus is on educational components,” explained Thomas. “Rarely are we dealing with anything besides alcohol and marijuana.”
For the past two years, state police, local police, and campus police have joined to form what is known on campus as the Task Force. During several weekends throughout each semester, when a noise violation occurs or a complaint is filed, the Task Force takes control of the situation and has gone so far as to ticket every person attending the party. “The interesting point is the Scout, the student newspaper, announced when the Task Force was coming this past year,” explained Thomas. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t always curb student behavior.”
Thomas also reflected on how the 2003 off-campus alcohol-related death of Robert Schmalz ’04 affected him. He said he was compelled to be even more aware of helping students while being empathetic to them.
“Bobby’s death definitely impacted the fraternities and sororities immediately,” commented Thomas. “It affected the way they induct new members, and some of the activities that alums know as ‘calling out’ aren’t allowed to take place anymore. The culture may not be much different today, but the fact that we’ve abandoned the ‘calling out’ is a huge step in the right direction. We’re also making strides toward moving away from the senior walk. It still gets down to the students making individual choices and learning to be responsible for those choices. When our staff attends national meetings, the number one topic continues to be drug and alcohol abuse. Surely there are other issues, but this is THE issue. If we could eliminate this issue, campuses across the country would be different communities.”
Bring on the HEAT
A peer leadership program, Bradley H.E.A.T. (Help, Encourage, and Teach) and a student-led marketing graphic design and public relations organization, SONOR (SOcial NORming), help the Wellness Program meet its goals. Since 1998, H.E.A.T. peer leaders have facilitated an interactive, psychoeducational workshop, Alcohol 101: Small Group Norms. The class is for freshmen enrolled in EHS 120: The University Experience. Sage-Bollenbach said the workshop focuses on talking with students about the consequences of alcohol abuse, campus social norms, and drinking alternatives. When students evaluate these workshops, they note that the additional information and skills learned help them make informed choices about alcohol and substance abuse, at least short term. Also, knowledge they already possessed was maintained and possibly reinforced. As a result of these programs, Bradley has won the National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week awards contest seven times.
In addition, the Bacchus Network, a national organization dedicated to promoting a philosophy of empowering students to positively influence their peers, has acknowledged the University with several awards: Bradley H.E.A.T. won the Outstanding Network Affiliates award in 1998, 2000, 2001, and 2003; the group also won the Outstanding Program/Event award in 2000; and SONOR won the Outstanding Network Affiliates award in 2005.