Back in 2006, a team of student support professionals saw a rise in students needing help addressing depression, stress, and anxiety. So the Division of Student Affairs launched the UNLV Support Team (UST) to make sure they got the help they needed. Approximately 40 kids were helped by the team in that first year; today, 15 years later, the UST steps up to help almost 1,000 students annually navigate a variety of issues that can impact their academic goals.
While that 1,000-student stat is one way to measure the impact of the team's work, its real value — supporting the mental health of our students — is immeasurable and unique to each individual. And, the team's leaders note, there is still much work to be done to dispel the myths and stigma surrounding mental health issues.
“We want faculty, staff, and students to realize that referring a student is not isolating them or singling them out, but letting professionals step in to help assist, and get that student the help they need," said Phil Burns, executive director for the office of student conduct. "That could be depression, anxiety, financial concerns, food or housing insecurity among other concerns. We’re here to help guide students to a successful path.”
About 80% of all student referrals that come to the group are handled by Scott Hoffman, who chairs the UST and is the assistant director/care manager in the office of student conduct. The core group is made up of about 10 individuals from various parts of campus, including the Care Center, the Disability Resource Center (DRC), the Division of Student Affairs, and others, who represent a variety of specialties. This group meets once a week to discuss individual cases, any developments, and possible intervention strategies.
Hoffman said, “Sometimes [the intervention] might be telling the student there's help available if they want it; sometimes it might just be serving as a listening ear for somebody to vent. I'm able to say that the student feels a little bit better after talking with me or the student is a little bit more informed about how to get help from the university.”
Often the people closest to the student recognizes a change in behavior and can be key to getting them the help they need even quicker, Hoffman affirmed. That’s why 20% of cases might be handled by someone else affiliated with the UST. “There may be a staff member with more specialized training and experience reaching out to that student,” he said.
Joy Hill, support team practicum student, brings a different perspective to the program. As a self-professed, lifelong learner Hill said, “I think it’s important that mental health is so talked about right now by people in the national limelight [who are] bringing awareness to the stigma we’re trying to overcome. It’s helping to the point we may not really have to convince people to get help, but to better educate them about the services already available to them.”
How to Help a Student in Distress
All members of the UNLV community, family, and friends can play an invaluable role in helping students who are in distress. Your expression of interest, concern, and compassion is an important factor toward a student seeking the assistance they need.
Visit the UNLV Support Team website to learn more about protocols and how to refer a student to help.
The office of student conduct (OSC), Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Student Health Center (SHC), Disability Resource Center (DRC), University Police Services, Jean Nidetch CARE Center, and administrators stand ready to assist you. We hope these services will help you to identify a potentially difficult situation and provide you with specific ideas and resources when you encounter a student in distress.
If you or a loved one are experiencing thoughts of suicide, call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.