By Allison Bellucci, Contributing Writer
College is often known for being the best years of a person’s life; but college can be stressful, too. Trying to keep it together all the time can be hard, especially when a typical student’s day is packed with classes and studying.
Although it can all be easily overwhelming, there are places University of New Hampshire students can go to manage their stress.
One of those places is the UNH Counseling Center, located in the center of campus in the newly renovated Smith Hall. While the Counseling Center is located on the third and fourth floors, Smith Hall is also home to Disability Services, Admissions and the Center for Academic Resources.
David Cross, director of the Counseling Center, is pleased to have such a beautiful building.
“Parents can come in, students can come in, and what I think is great for parents is they see we are with admissions,” Cross said. “They know that admissions is recruiting their students, but we are here to retain their students. It’s a really nice location.”
Being the primary mental health facility on campus, the Counseling Center offers a variety of services for students. From individual counseling, to group counseling, assistance in crisis management and psychiatric services, the Counseling Center wants to help.
Cross expressed his appreciation for the amount of help they receive from student organizations.
“[Both] graduate and undergraduates support us,” he said.
The student governments have supported the Counseling Center and continued to even when the prices increased.
“Last year we were actually given two new staff psychologist positions to add to my staff,” Cross said. “That increased the student fee, but the student senate and the undergraduate senate supported it 100 percent. That fee last year was $154 per student.”
For the past 40 years, Cross has been an advocate for student mental health. Coming right out of graduate school at 26 years old, Cross came to UNH as a staff psychologist. After 12 years, Cross became the director of the Counseling Center.
“I love working with students, and I love working with the administration here, the campus is great,” Cross said.
Scott Chesney, director of residential life, is a colleague of Cross.
“I consider David to be one of the foremost leaders in the Division of Student and Academic Services and in the university at large,” Chesney said. “While technically he serves as director of the Counseling Center, his influence extends well beyond the walls of that office. David has spent many years reaching out to faculty and staff, delivering workshops on how to deal with difficult people, suicide prevention and other topics.”
One aspect of student health Cross has especially focused on is suicide prevention.
“I have particularly been very interested in suicide prevention because, in loving to work with young adult students, it’s such a tragedy to lose one,” Cross said.
Suicide is a serious issue that UNH has suffered from in the past.
“We do average one death to student suicide a year. Knock on wood, we have not had one this year, but we have had several students who have been transported to the hospital on weekends with gestures, attempts or threats,” he said. “A lot of the time that involves alcohol.”
One program UNH has started, initiated by Cross, is an online interactive avatar program named “Kognito.”Available to all students, Kognito shows students how to have challenging conversations with friends and peers. The program focuses on mental health and how to motivate troubled students to seek help.
The program shows students how to take on these difficult confrontations and discusses the signs to look for in friends and peers. The 30-minute program starts with observing conversations a group of friends has over a year. After choosing the most troubled friend, students have an interactive conversation with the friend.
The program teaches students how to phrase questions and conversations to avoid insulting questions and insensitive comments. The program also goes over phrases that may make a friend feel offended or judged, closing them to having a successful conversation.
Kevin Charles, assistant vice president of Student and Academic Services and executive director of Health Services, discusses how much time and effort Cross and the team has put into finding a program to help educate students at UNH.
“It’s really all about David. I mean, we helped fund the last part of it, but he used funding that he could come up with,” Charles said. “David brought this to us three years ago; we’ve always had a concern, but he’s in the center of the issue of suicide prevention. He found out about this, researched it, looked into it and then again advocated for it.”
Every UNH student is encouraged to try the “at-risk for students” program. Visit http://kognitocampus.com/login Enrollment Key: UNH603. For more information on Kognito, contact Doctor David Cross at firstname.lastname@example.org.