RA Training Outline: Confronting Threats of Self Harm in Residential Students

Preface: I’m going to start sharing Residence Life training resources here from time to time, especially in the summer when Student Affairs people are getting ready for August workshops. Why? Because we all have something to offer each other and unlike SOME web sites and programs that I will not name, I believe none of this information is so groundbreaking and secret that you have to pay $500-$1000 to train people to talk about it. Take this outline and refine it to your needs. If nothing else, it’s a starting point in the endless training sessions we prepare each year. If your boss doesn’t believe this information has any credibility because you didn’t pay $300 to hear it read to you in a boring webinar PowerPoint, feel free to hit up my etsy store and buy $300 worth of jewelry :)

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This information focuses on the role of the Resident Assistant in working with students who present mental health issues to them. It does NOT deal with how to detect students in crisis, since most of our students of concern (or their friends or roommates) are coming directly to staff or we are being notified by someone like the Dean of Students or a faculty member.

Start with the types of RESOURCES on campus and how their role is not as a long term therapist or problem solver, but one of a NOTIFIER and REFERRER. Write out these resources on the board before the session begins so they are visible when brainstorming responses. Helps them to see they are not alone in dealing with the student issues.
• Their supervisor
• Their Assistant Director/Area Coordinator
• Health & counseling services
• Office of Victims Assistance (if you have a Victim Advocate)
• Disability Services
• Wellness services
• Campus Police
• Dean of Students
• Community Counseling (if available in your area)
• OTHERS? The RL staff person on call?

MYTHS: Ask RAs to offer some first, talk about each one. Use the correct procedures and terminology for your campus. THIS is the stuff that scares them about these mental health situations and they should want to talk about this.
• Asking a student if they are thinking of harming or killing themselves will put the idea in their head. (False – Direct questioning is important.)
• You need to watch a student of concern 24 hours a day. (False – You are a First Responder and crisis manager.)
• You can help by holding their medication. (False – Not even professional RL staff should be doing that. We are not doctors or pharmacists.)
• It’s better to handle the situation yourself rather than get the police/duty staff involved. (False – Persuading someone not to hurt themselves is important but a short-term solution and RAs should not handle this burden on their own.)
• If they hurt themselves after they told you about their issues, it’s your fault. (False – NEVER)
• If they hurt themselves because you weren’t around when they wanted to talk, it’s your fault. (False – NEVER)
• Telling the RD or calling Campus Police will violate the students’ trust and confidentiality. (False – reporting up is required but doesn’t mean everyone will know the residents’ business. Confidentiality should never be promised.)
• You can’t turn away a student who needs you* (see below – that’s a whole other issue)
• OTHERS?

*Talk about the RARE people who drain resources or refuse help from anyone but the RA
• How to refer them
• How to not get sucked in to the drama
• How important it is to document interactions in clear and detailed reports
• How important it is to let your supervisor know
• How important it is to remember than you can utilize Health and Counseling Services as well!

Walk through some conversational “what ifs”:
What if a resident pulls you aside after a meeting/in the hall office/in your room and says:
• “I just wanted to let you know that I was hospitalized in high school for depression and cutting.”
• “I can’t be on the floor with the male RA because I was assaulted as a child by my uncle.”
• “Don’t worry; I cut so that I don’t do something worse.”
• “I’m pretty sure my suite-mate has an eating disorder.”
• OTHERS?

In Which I am Incapable of Developing Healthy Habits

This may veer into the land of  Too Much Information, but I’ve been thinking about all those little self- and life-improvement things I mean to do that I just can’t manage to make a habit of.  I really try to be all-around awesome, but most habits just don’t stick with me…

1.  Stop abusing the ellipsis…

2. Stop putting two spaces in between sentences.

2a.  Stop caring that people care about not putting two spaces in between sentences.

3.  Do squats while I am brushing my teeth.  Sure, it sounds great – dental hygiene AND a firmer tush!  Hardly ever happens.

4.  Get used to broccoli and brussel sprouts.  I dream of a day when science proves that these two vegetables are poisonous so I don’t feel so guilty about avoiding them.

5.  Check my car’s oil and tire pressure on a regular basis.  I have all the fluids my car could ask for…sitting in the trunk with the tire pressure gauge.  My husband is mystified that he’s the one who has to remember to do this.  Don’t I get any credit at all for at least toting all the crap around with me?  I see that as half the battle.

6.  Oil pulling.  Look it up (NO, it’s not a sex thing).  Intriguing but gross.

7. Stop watching reruns of Jackass. Oh don’t judge. Since I work in Higher Ed., I find something soothing about watching people do stupid things that I don’t have to follow up on. Plus, I think Johnny Knoxville is hot.

7a. Stop thinking Johnny Knoxville is hot.

8. Floss.

9. Use the hula hoop I bought because I heard it’s a really good workout.

10. Stop eating so much sugar.

10a. Except chocolate.

The Real Reason I’m Not Shopping at Hobby Lobby

I won’t rehash all the stupidly of the SCOTUS ruling with regards Hobby Lobby and birth control coverage for their employees. Or debate that people with insurance can still get b.c. or if corporations are people blahblahblah…

No, this is my blog so it’s all about me.

My first reaction past the initial Abe Froman vs. Concierge response of “I weep for the future” was “dammit, I have to stop shopping there – and I NEED to shop there”. But then when I really thought about it, I DON’T need to shop there. I won’t miss it at all. Maybe my initial feeling was just a knee-jerk reaction to being told that I should boycott something, because who likes self-righteous people on facebook telling you what you should and should not do for the good of society? (For example, stop with all the articles telling me I’m going to the seventh circle of hell for putting two spaces in between my sentences. Get a life already.) You tell me not to do something and I’m going to bristle at it. But then I considered the reality.

Hobby Lobby sells cheap crap. Usually you can find what you need for half off, making it even cheaper. I make jewelry and on occasion I will buy a bunch of supplies there to play around with but realistically, it’s usually just for quick projects I’m whipping out for a fundraiser sale or a little extra bling to stick with a present – not actual items that I sell in the etsy store. Most components there are made of weak base metals that break quickly and turn your skin green. Brass, aluminum, pewter, mystery metal…these are not my materials of choice when I’m making something. When I thought about where I actually go in that giant store, it’s just 2 aisles of crap jewelry supplies that I can get at Michael’s when I desperately need them. I don’t sew, knit or crochet. I don’t need holiday decorations and if I did there are plenty of other places to buy them. I’m not planning weddings or baby showers. All those tacky housewares that take up half the store hold no appeal to me. I wish people would stop buying that crap in general anyway because it really makes the overall quality of yard sales in my area go way down. Like I need a glass rooster or a beveled mirror to set pillar candles on. Because people don’t have enough useless knick knacks in their houses, they need to get them at 50% from Hobby Lobby? Just no.

Plus, half the time I get a chance to go shopping anywhere it’s on a Sunday.

Not All Athletes

Dear Under Armour:

First, let me tell you I love you.  I really do.  You have infiltrated my life and at any given moment I am wearing one of your products.  They make me feel motivated to do better, be active, but most importantly they just look and feel good on me.  I’m a medium in your shirts, by the way, which makes me feel awesome because my boobs make me an extra large in everything else I try on.  Don’t even get me started on shirts with thumb holes.  Precious.  Your skinny little headbands are now a staple in my life until I have a major hair meltdown and chop it all off again.  Your leggings are too damn expensive so I don’t have any of those yet, but I’m hoping to score some clearance rack shorts eventually.

But today let’s talk about panties – more specifically, your Pure Stretch Cheeky line.  This topic is on my mind because I am wearing them right now.  But green.

The UA Pure Stretch Cheeky

The UA Pure Stretch Cheeky

While in Baltimore recently it was imperative that I go to the UA store, the way a Catholic tourist in Rome has to go to Vatican City.  Like you have to eat lobster rolls in Maine.   Like one must drink a Hand Grenade, Voodoo, and Hurricane in New Orleans – before noon.  I couldn’t find much I really needed that day (aka, not much was on sale) besides some headbands and I stumbled upon the superfun panties in the little boxes.  On sale 3 for $30.00.  Most people I know don’t spend $10 on a pair of panties so when the salesgirl asked if I needed help we discussed the pros and cons of both these and the Pure Stretch Cheeky Sheer.  Long story short, I bought three pairs of Sheers and one of these regular gals.  (Hey, I make questionable purchases when travelling.)  But one thing that concerned me was the packaging that stated “One size fits all” with “all” crossed out and “athletes” added.  The girl assured me my behind would fit in the sheers because they have a lot of give.  She wasn’t as positive about the non-sheer pair (marketed as no panty line undies, because that’s what’s really super important to me when working out).  I’m pointing out that we had the critical “will they or won’t they fit” conversation, because at 5″2″ /130 pounds, I really didn’t imagine it would be an issue.  I didn’t think I needed that much “give”.



 

Pure Stretch Sheer

Pure Stretch Sheer

So…when I got back to my hotel I have to say the more I thought about the tag line on the packaging the more offended I was.  And I continue to be offended every time I put on that non-sheer Pure Stretch pair which totally does NOT stretch as much as you would think it should for “all athletes”.  Unless you think all athletes are those twiggy little size 4 things with thigh gaps and flat asses.  Size does not an athlete make.  I wish you would rethink that statement, because it’s kind of rude. Think of all the ladies out there kicking ass at their sport of choice, and how many awesome shapes and sizes they come in.

As for me, I’m going to keep wearing that pair because I paid $12 damn dollars for it (yes, $12 for one pair), even though it gives me overhang and reverse panty lines.  Actually, it’s probably more accurate to call them ass lines if you think about it.  They get worn under baggy skirts for that reason.  And that’s my fault for guessing that maybe they might fit, since there’s really no size given other than that insulting line.  But blissfully, I am in love with the Pure Stretch Sheers and plan to buy more pairs when I hit the lottery or get Christmas money.

So to sum up:  I love you, most of your products make me feel good about myself, I can only afford clearance rack items, please stop making me feel bad about my abundance of ass.

Don’t Spend Money on Me When I’m Dead

Seriously, what’s with all the commercials scaring us about how much money a funeral costs? Where does all the cost come in here? Because if it’s stuff that people are pushing on to the bereaved to take advantage or make them feel guilty about refusing, y’all can keep it when I’m gone. These commercials piss me off and make me think of what’s really necessary.

Cremation, with no viewing (aka wake)
Combustible “alternative container” – basically a flannel/cardboard box.
Death certificate.

Am I forgetting anything? Honestly, there is no reason you have to pay a facility fee to set me out in a rented coffin for 2-3 days and pretty me up just so I can be incinerated. And don’t let them tell you it’s required to buy one of their overpriced urns. Take me in what comes from the crematorium and put me in whatever or wherever you want. I am sterile and pose absolutely no health hazards at that point, for the first time in life.

Have a memorial service if you must in a nice park led by one of any number of friends who are ordained Internet ministers. Then have a pot luck picnic with good music and lots of laughter. You won’t need an obituary in a paper either – social media gets the word out just fine and in record time.

Some might think that’s terrible, but I don’t see the sense in adding to the living’s pain by dragging this out and causing them a huge bill. That isn’t required of you to show your love for me, I promise. I’m not judging you from beyond. Not unless you let my husband wear one of those tacky, button-down, short sleeved plaid shirts of his.

Well, my Disney Vacation Sucked

In Disney’s defense, all vacations can’t be great vacations – not even Disney vacations. Although getting a raging stomach virus on your birthday really sinks it for them. And I wasn’t the only one. When you see sawdust (at work we call that Vomit Comet) on the floor of your hotel lobby and they’re trying to tell you it’s “pixie dust” you know it’s time to escape. Escape we did, and probably infected everyone from Florida to The Carolina’s (I’m sorry) as we flew home. Husband says it’s my fault he feels sick but he’s the one who started feeling seriously dizzy after the second day there. If dizzy is all he got he should consider himself lucky because it didn’t completely go south (and north) for him like it did for me. It was actually hard to tell that I was getting sick since after every meal it seems my husband would make me go on a ride that would make any normal person want to vomit. A whirl on the teacups anyone? Kind of serves him right.

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There bear is me, about to hurl. The other bear looking on APPEARS concerned, but he’s just anxious to go get in another line for something else to make me want to vomit.

Did you know they don’t blare “it’s a small world” out into the street anymore? We tracked down my uncle who spends his time working at either Small World, Peter Pan, or the Little Mermaid ride and he explained that it’s because it would drive them all nuts. And by “them” I’m assuming he means all the old retired guys who work there because I don’t remember Disney ever caring about the mental health concerns of college-age students that are stuck listening to it. Which reminds me: how many international college students do you think are lured to Disney every year with the belief that they’ll get to be a princess and instead end up scrubbing toilets and wiping tables?

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Main dining room of Be Our Guest

There were some cool moments like getting that urban legend-type email where we could sign up for a Quick Service lunch reservation at Be Our Guest, and seeing giant, decorated chocolate Easter eggs in the Grand Floridian lobby where we pretended to be rich people, but I seriously need a birthday do over. Not that you couldn’t get that sick anywhere, but for the price, it really made me wish I went back to Istanbul. (Yes, it would have cost about the same for two people.) It took us four years to get back there, partly because it’s gotten so stupid expensive that we end up going other places like California or St. Maarten. I don’t know when we’ll go back at this point. It’s hard to get excited about the return trip when you keep trying to pinpoint the exact moment all your paranoid germaphobe practices went straight to hell. Was it on the airplane? Was it the fancy character breakfast? Was it Be Our Guest (which was at least totally delicious)? Was it the random chicken nugget I found in my vegetable soup at Hollywood Studios? Was it just being around thousands of whiny, nose-picking kids all hopped up on Mickey-shaped chocolate Rice Krispie treats?

No seriously – what the hell is up with a chicken nugget is my veggie soup?

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P.S. I didn’t state this above but really should have: Disney “cast members” are pretty much the most wonderful and patient people ever, regardless of what happened on vacation. They have the patience of saints to deal with Disney tourists because we are the neediest, doucheiest asshats ever. If you’ve been there I think you can agree to how awful we can be. :)

Monday Morning Quarterbacking Cancer

I know it’s ridiculous, impossible, maybe even inappropriate, but when you find out a friend was whisked away by cancer, you just can’t help but look at old pictures and try to see where it was lurking. I mean, when I met him he and his wife were trying to get pregnant and now they have 5 year old triplets. Triplets. And I look at pictures from the past years and I think “where are you cancer?” “I don’t see any sign that you would be waiting to jump out and take over this big man’s brain within 10 months.” I think how can it be that you wouldn’t know something that big and awful was waiting around the corner. But you just don’t and when I think about that it really freaks me out.

What would you do if you could look at someone and just KNOW – just see some tiny little black spot (I picture cancer as a black spot and even if it’s removed and “cured” it’s still there, smudging your soul.) and see that’s it’s making evil decisions about the future? Do you say they should maybe rethink long range plans? Do you say nothing and hope you are wrong? Do you become so afraid of what unknown thing is lurking somewhere for you that you only live in the short term?

I’ve always said “everybody’s got their something”, but I’ve always said it with the hope that I know what my something is and I’m dealing with it successfully. But I know that’s false hope. Because there’s no rule that says you only get ONE something. Or that your one something is manageable.