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spacer spacer Frequently Asked Questions about the Mandated Safety Assessment (MSA) Protocol

Why me? I know lots of students who do what I've done or feel as I feel.
It's true, you may know of other students who need help more than you do, or who have engaged in riskier behaviors. Maybe a report was written about you because you talked about suicide one time, but you know of other students who cut regularly, who have taken pills, burned themselves, mentioned a wish to die or to hurt someone else, are starving themselves, have blacked out from alcohol consumption, or any number of other behaviors that seem more serious to you than your situation. If there's someone you're worried about, we hope you'll encourage him or her to take advantage of counseling, too. But since someone reported concerns about some actions you'd taken and statements you've made, we want to do all we can to ensure your well-being and that of concerned others around you.

I've been in counseling before, and I didn't like it. If you send me to the Counseling Center, I'll just sit there. Why are you still requiring that I go?
Developing trust in your relationship with a counselor is key to this process being helpful. It may be that your prior experience really was a poor fit between you and your therapist, or that you did not trust what you said to remain confidential. We encourage you to talk to your counselor about your concerns. If the fit with the first counselor you meet isn't right, you are welcome to request a shift to someone else on or off-campus.

What happens if I go to the Counseling Center, and after one or more sessions, my counselor determines that I've not complied with treatment?
If you feel like you've complied with the program but your counselor disagrees, you have several choices. You can request a meeting with the Director of the Counseling Center or the Dean of Students to discuss your concerns. You can decide to change counselors either to another on- or off-campus therapist. We want this to be a positive and useful experience for you.

In order to make this experience as useful as possible for you, we have determined through experience that certain things are necessary. If you do not do these things, you will not be considered in compliance. For example, it may also be that a student appears for the appointment(s), but does not make a good-faith effort to participate in the assessment. A student who is chronically late for appointments, re-schedules or no-shows multiple times will also not meet the requirements.

If this should happen, you may be asked to begin your mandated assessment over again with another counselor on- or off-campus. It might be helpful to talk to your prior counselor for specific feedback about what would need to proceed differently in order for you to satisfy the College's requirements. Ultimately, failure to complete the assessment could result in further action by the College, but the hope is that if the Counseling Center is not the ideal place for you to get your assessment, that you will simply get the recommended evaluation or treatment in the setting that is right for you.

How can you un-enroll me from my academic classes, based on my social behavior?
The two are inter-twined. We recommend you carefully read the students Rights and Responsibilities in the Student Handbook. So for example, students who are on academic probation are sometimes disallowed from co-curricular activities like athletics, theater, leadership positions, clubs, or any other activity by which they might represent the College. We look upon dis-enrolling students who are struggling as a responsibility for us, not as a punishment for them. It would be irresponsible of us to let someone who is failing classes and not making progress towards a degree invest all his or her time as a club president while they pay full tuition. Similarly, to let someone who is struggling emotionally keep plugging along in classes until a major trauma occurs would be unfair to the person and to the people around them.

What happens to the tuition money we paid if I get dis-enrolled from my classes?
The College publishes a schedule that shows the percentage of tuition that is returned to students depending upon the point in the semester at which they depart campus. Please consult the Dean of Students office(603-358-2842) for these specific figures.

What happens if I'm participating in the assessment like I'm supposed to, and a new Safety Assessment Referral Form is written about me?
If this were to happen, the Safety Assessment Committee would consider if there is something more that needs to be done to keep you and the community around you safe. Although the Committee would acknowledge that you were following through with the required assessment, it would become increasingly concerned with your behavior (even during the process of an assessment.) If the Committee receives repeated reports of risky behavior, the response of the Committee is likely to escalate in an effort to protect your health and the welfare of those around you.

It may look to other people like I am harming myself, but I have no intention of dying. Do I still go through this if I'm honestly not suicidal?
Yes, because your behavior caused others concern. Only you will know whether you were intending to really kill yourself, and whether you might ever plan to do so. The concern is for your behavior and not about trying to read your intention. We cannot expect your peers or faculty to interpret your behaviors or diagnose your level of distress, either. You may speak with the counselor you work with about what you were actually thinking, and how you feel about how things have turned out (including about getting this letter.) But frankly, if you've worried others, you're a high priority for us. We need the community to feel safe to all, whether or not you are actually at high risk. For example, sometimes students who have anorexia don't realize how deeply their health issues are affecting those around them.

Okay, honestly, I was suicidal for a bit there, but I'm fine now. Do I still have to get an assessment?
Yes. Many students mention suicidal feelings in the course of participating in psychotherapy, and we know that this is not the same as planning to kill one's self. We all develop some self-destructive ways of coping at times, when things aren't going well. This is a chance to talk about what patterns you've developed and what more effective coping strategies you might add to your repertoire.

So what if I am suicidal? It's my right to take my life if I choose to do so.
We know that only you have ultimate control over how you interact with your body. But suicide is a form of violent behavior, and you do not have the right to engage in behaviors that harm you (and therefore those around you) while a member of our campus community without some consequences. Your student status is a privilege you have earned (and can lose), not a right that you remain entitled to regardless of your academic performance or behavioral choices.

Why does Keene State College have this policy?
This model was adopted by several other institutions at the same time. It's an approach that originated at the College of Illinois, where it resulted in decreasing student suicides by 50% over a number of years. The policy has the potential to help KSC students, too.

Why are faculty, staff and students keeping such a close eye on my welfare?
We believe that getting students support when they need it is important; that's why folks are paying close attention. We really hope for students to enjoy and benefit from their Keene State experience, not just to survive it; health - both physical and emotional -- is a huge part of that equation.

How can you say the assessment is "confidential" if I have to give you permission to tell the Safety Assessment Committee whether I've come or not?
It's called a consent for limited release of information, and the authorization is only for those things the counselor needs to communicate to the Committee. The counselor will need your permission to confirm that you have completed the MSA protocol, but (s)he can't (and wouldn't want to) share anything about the nature of what you'd discussed. Without your written consent, the counselor can't even acknowledge that (s)he knows you!

You should be aware that there is certain information a counselor is required to report such as: If you are assessed to be at imminent risk of harming yourself or others, if you report ongoing abuse of children or dependent adults, or if there is a court order of your record. So you're correct in that, mandated assessments are not 100% confidential in the sense that the counselor will need to reassure the Safety Assessment Committee that you are following-through, but this need not cause disruption to the trust in your counseling relationship.

I want to appeal. How may I go about that?
As noted in the letter you received from the Dean of Students, you may appeal this action to the Vice President of Student Affairs. This office is in the L.P. Young Student Center on the third floor, and the phone number is 603-358-2108. This must occur within 24 hours of your having received this letter. When you make this formal appointment, the Vice President of Student Affairs or a designee will communicate what else may be required of you (if anything) in preparation for this meeting.


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