Colleges liable to student mental health

If you haven’t heard about the Iowa State lawsuit, you need to bring yourself up to speed quickly.  To summarize, a student on campus died by suicide and the university’s mental health support wasn’t enough.  The student had been in an out of the Counseling Office, but it just wasn’t enough.  Communicating the suicide to the parents first was handled poorly by University Police.  And the parent’s sued Iowa State.  Not because they wanted money, but because they wanted the university to acknowledge it hadn’t done enough for their son.  The family won.

This is huge.  This lawsuit will make drastic waves within university systems.  Also, because less than a week later a student at Harvard died by suicide.  Why is this huge? Other than the stated obvious mental health epidemic on college campuses, it’s because no matter how much institutions are implementing it still won’t be enough.  As a refuge for higher learning who is doing as much as you can to support the tuition-paying students on campus, You, as a university, need to ask for help.

Now is the time for colleges and universities to link up with outside resources to ensure their students are getting the support they need, right when they need it.  Students identified as expressing suicidality will be immediately referred to off-campus treatment.  That student needs to halt their academics to get stable before they could pretend to continue focusing on doing well in their Organic Chemistry class.  I’m not suggesting colleges hire Case Managers.  I’m suggesting colleges hire professionals who have dedicated their lives to traveling the US, and world, to know and understand treatment programs.  They can tell you appropriate residential programs.  They can describe in detail the differences in outdoor behavioral healthcare programs.  They can talk about the continued care process.  They aren’t working for the university.  They are working for the young adult, and the young adult’s family. They aren’t making recommendations based solely on what insurance says is in-network.  Most of those programs are substance abuse primary diagnosis, or extremely short-term hospital-feeling assessment programs.  That’s not what your students need.  And in order to not have another suicide, or 10, on your record you seriously need to consider hiring a contracted consultant to help you, in helping your students.

Yes, this might seem progressive, outlandish, or far-fetched.  But for the universities who are planning to allocate $75,000 to hiring an additional Counselor for their Counseling Office who will immediately have a full caseload, instead you could offer less than that to have a Consultant make recommendations for hundreds of your students leaving campus.  It’s a no-brainer.  Or, so it is to me.

Who are these professionals I speak of?  They are Therapeutic Educational Consultants.  They are the ones who will save your students.  They are also the ones who will save your university from another lawsuit.  Again, no-brainer.

Now, if you are the college who says, “this isn’t our problem,” I warn you not to be complacent.  Your students are struggling, whether you are acknowledging it or not.  You have more demand for mental health services than you have professionals available to meet those needs.  It’s only a matter of time.  The clock is ticking for you.  Be the college or university that proactively sees the benefit of hiring this professional.  Don’t wait until you’re in a similar lawsuit like Iowa State before making drastic changes.  Student’s lives are on the line.

For anyone looking for additional resources around mental health, substance abuse, college transition coaching, or parent resources you can find them on: or follow @lilleyconsulting, or