Students have resources when approaching a friend who may be troubled

By Lindsey Salvatelli

Here are a variety of options available to the campus community for those who are exhibiting troubled behaviors.

Students are able to have access to counseling services not just for themselves but also for their friends.

Brooke Ruxton, Counseling and Consultation Services executive director, said there can be a variety of signs that someone is dealing with an issue, but the easiest to spot is an abrupt change in behavior.

“That concerning behavior can be that someone is showing significant changes in their behavior, their demeanor,” Ruxton said. “It may be that someone is asking for some help in a different way, or on the flipside, retreating.”

Students shouldn’t feel guilty about coming forward about a friend who’s exhibiting concerning behaviors, Ruxton said. She said when approaching someone who is showing concerning behaviors it’s best to be honest and tell them their concerns about the changes they’re observing.

If there is a concern to safety when approaching someone, Ruxton said students should reach out to campus resources, like counseling services, for help.

Counseling services is available to anyone in the community who is concerned about a friend’s behavior and can help guide how an individual could approach the situation.

Tom Phillips, NIU Campus Police chief, said dispatch tends to get more calls about students doing harm to themselves versus students threatening others.

Philips said police officials learn about threats in a variety of ways. When calls about a person who’s threatened others does come, his department responds by making contact with the individual who’s been identified as sending the threat, but determining how credible a threat is requires some investigation.

“There’s not ahard fast set of protocols if something’s credible or not,” Phillips said. “You base it on the totality of the fact when they come together.”

Jason Leverton, DeKalb Police Department commander, said his department has a similar approach when responding to calls about threats made, as well as reported threats made over social media.

“We certainly check into every single one of those [reports],” Leverton said.

Phillips said with the Parkland, Florida, shooting, and the recent student hoax in DeKalb, there have been more calls placed to his department about suspicious persons, but he’s glad people are taking more precautions and are concerned about their communities.

“It’s actually not a bad thing because if I get one point across, it’s if you see something, you have to say something, call us,” Phillips said.

The Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education and Counseling and Consultation Services recently started Helping Huskies Thrive, a program that’s designed to help the campus community better identify those who are showing signs of concerning behaviors.

“Any student group, any faculty or staff group, can request training through Helping Huskies Thrive in order to just gain some confidence in order to do that,” Ruxton said.

She said another way students can try to offer their friends help is by submitting a Student of Concern Report on the Student Conduct webpage. She said the student of concern team focuses on outreach and develops strategies to assist a student who’s in need of help.

“The student of concern team primarily functions as a collective way to help students get connected to resources,” Ruxton said.

Another program that will assist students before the end of the spring 2018 semester is Kognito, an online system that trains students to be more proactive when identifying concerning behaviors.

She said the program is currently available to organizations that have a lot of contact with the general student body, such as the Student Association and those who work in housing.

With school violence becoming more frequent, campus administrators have begun to find ways to be more proactive in training students and faculty in how to handle concerning students.

“There’s sort of this shift in focus that the entire campus community can play some role in helping the community to be safe and healthy,” Ruxton said.