A resident assistant’s role at Concordia University Wisconsin has become an important part of students’ mental health.
Although RAs are primarily in charge of handling students in a certain hall of a dorm, their role also includes lending a helping hand to those needing assistance with personal matters. Delaney McAdams and Nick Niswonger are resident assistants that have had struggling students on their floor.
“I may be a little biased, but we are the front lines so to speak,” McAdams said. “If there are problems, either the resident will come to us looking for a listening ear to point them in the right direction, or their roommates, suite mates, or friends will come to us and say that they are concerned.”
Many incoming students experience different signs of depression and anxiety when they begin college. While making friends and having new responsibilities are usually the most common causes, there are others, as well.
“Some common issues incoming students deal with are homesickness and developing a sense of identity,” Niswonger said.
RAs are responsible for creating programs to foster a sense of community within a hall. This allows students to make friends and form connections that can help with homesickness and loneliness. The programs include crafts and movie nights.
“My guys love painting programs. Usually if there is free food or a prize, they come to my programs,” Niswonger said.
RAs also complete suicide response training, as well as other ways to help students in potentially harmful situations while waiting for campus safety or medical professionals to arrive. RAs may not be medical professionals, but they are often the first to see and help students showing symptoms.
The university also provides free counseling to their students. On-campus professionals specializing in eating disorders, anxiety, depression are available.
“Personally, mental health is a subject that most people do not talk about…being in the position that I am in, it’s easier for me to transition into that conversation and get residents to talk about it more. Fortunately, I have not had any of my residents come to me for metal help advice. Most of them went straight to the counseling center on-campus,” Niswonger said.
While the goal of a RA is to create a fun and friendly environment for students, mental health also matters.
“RA’s are hired because we want to be that fun support in the hall and provide a healthy and exciting life in the res halls and on campus, so we all should want to live up to those standards,” McAdams said.
For more information on mental health and the services provided by CUW, click here.
Written by Hana Castillo.