“Someone cares enough about you to want to help,” is often the first thing Alicia McGoldrick says to the students she meets with.
As Brock University’s Student Affairs Case Co-ordinator, McGoldrick is an initial point of contact for students at risk of harm to themselves or others due to mental well-being, social challenges, or other concerns, and she is well-equipped for the busiest part of her year.
With the onset of shorter days, chilly weather and mid-terms looming, McGoldrick and the other members of the Student-at-Risk team know there will be an increase in the need for the services they offer. However, in delivering these services, McGoldrick said the team are helping to make a tangible difference in the lives of students and the culture of open and honest communication Brock is renowned for.
“I meet students wherever they are at mentally,” she said. “We talk about whatever concerns they might have and what they are struggling with and then we go from there.”
Going from there is a step that is unique to each person McGoldrick speaks with.
“If they feel like they have a connection with me, they can continue to meet with me,” she said. “Another big part of my role is connecting them with additional resources on campus, such as a mental health nurse or counsellor, depending on their specific needs.”
Along with encouraging students to reach out to her directly, McGoldrick also emphasized the need for staff, faculty and students to be mindful of those around them who might be at risk.
“Often we can see that something has changed in those around us before we can recognize it in ourselves,” she said. “Having the courage to submit a referral and identify someone as being at risk shows that person they are valued and that those around them recognize something seems to be negatively affecting their demeanor or actions.”
Some of the signs a student might be at risk include a change in their personal appearance or hygiene, a decline in attendance and participation, or casual and implied references to self-harm or suicide.
McGoldrick said observing even mild examples of these changes can warrant a referral.
“We need to be proactive,” she said. “We have all of the resources to help people manage the tough times they may be going through. A simple referral can change someone’s life.”
As the year progresses, McGoldrick hopes the Brock community will continue to be mindful of their own well-being as well as those around them during other seasons as well.
“This is a reality for so many students, no matter who you are, you are going to be struggling with something,” she said. “We all have periods of life that are not easy.”