Sometimes the signs of distress are clear. Other times they are hidden in an off-the-cuff remark, a flagging interest, a growing anxiety. Either way, the worst thing to do about depression, aggression, bubbling rage and other emotional issues is to ignore them.
PolyCARES, a team of experts at Cal Poly Pomona, is working to ensure that students, faculty and staff have somewhere to turn when a member of the campus community poses a risk to himself or others, or when someone senses that a friend or associate is in distress. Taking the first step – alerting someone in a position to do something – is the most important.
“Don’t assume you’re overreacting,” says Michele Willingham, director of Counseling & Psychological Services and a PolyCARES team member. “Let us determine whether your concern is founded.”
Mike Guerin, chief of police on campus and also a PolyCARES member, says concerns about privacy should not deter people from seeking help or expressing concern about someone.
“The bottom line is if you see or hear or sense or something, you’re probably right to feel concerned,” Guerin says. “Don’t disregard it, do something about it. Tell your resident advisor, an instructor, anyone in authority. Make sure you tell someone.”
People can remain anonymous, Guerin says, by leaving a voice mail message at (909) 869-3399, a number that does not record caller ID. They may also email email@example.com.
Several places on campus offer the community a place to socialize, unwind, talk to someone and share concerns.
Byron Howlett Jr., interim director of the office of student life & cultural centers, says campus community members are always welcome at any of the cultural centers, which are full of resources.
“Each center is a safe zone, a place to hang out,” he says. “There are no strangers here.” The six centers, which offer a variety of services, are:
- African American Student Center
- Asian & Pacific Islander Student Center
- Cesar Chavez Center
- Native American Student Center
- Pride Center
- Violence Prevention & Women’s Resource Center
Those who need to talk to a professional counselor can visit CAPS, in room 116 of the bookstore building. The number to call for an appointment is (909) 869-3220, though drop-ins are always welcome. The cost of counseling is folded into student fees, so there is no financial barrier to stopping by.
“We all have to take responsibility for keeping ourselves and our community healthy and safe,” Willingham says.