As a second year Assistant Resident Director at a small, private institution, one of my favorite job responsibilities is to facilitate one-on-one meetings with student staff members I supervise. To me, one-on-ones provide students with a space to unpack and make meaning of situations they experience, both personally as students and professionally as Resident Educators. Though each one-on-one I facilitate is different, I’ve gotten into a steady routine that allows me as an active listener to pick up on when a student is not behaving as they typically would. Therefore, when I either notice in a one-on-one that a student is acting atypical, or when the student speaks with me regarding a mental health issue they believe to be experiencing, I always encourage them to “leave [their] leadership on their floor.”
What this phrase means to me is that, when a student facing a mental health issue is coming to meet with me for their one-on-one, they will always be regarded and respected as a student leader. However, I recognize that the student leaders I work with are not immune to adversity. With this, it is my role as their supervisor to meet them where they are, and work with them to be resilient and to actively work on the issues that are plaguing them.
When a student does tell me they are experiencing a mental health issue, aside from encouraging them to see a mental health professional, I feel it is my responsibility to ask the student what they need from me, as I am also a resource to each student I work with. In a one-on-one with a student that is facing a mental health issue that I am knowledgeable about, one of the first things (besides alerting my supervisor), that I like to do is change the location of the meeting, from an office with no windows, to a place such as a quaint coffee shop. Additionally, I may even let them chose a space on campus that they will feel most comfortable, or a space that will make them feel “better” talking in for the week.
In my experience, a change in scenery truly enhances one-on-ones with students experiencing mental health issues, because it provides a fresh environment for the student to work in. Depending on the location, the student may divulge new information that may prove useful when actively working with the student to either overcome or function proactively with their issue. It is important to note that I am not a mental health professional. However, I always feel compelled to act up when my students are not at their best. As student leaders, it their responsibility to take care of their floor. But when they step in my office, it is my responsibility to take care of them.
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