360 Degrees with Dr. Kathy Cavins-Tull, the new Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs

In July, TCU welcomed Dr. Kathy Cavins-Tull as the new Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. Before joining the Horned Frog community, Cavins-Tull served as Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at Illinois Wesleyan University.As well as working to improve housing accommodations for TCU’s growing student body, Cavins-Tull said one of her main concerns was improving student mental health. Cavins-Tull said she planned to improve student mental health this year through the Question, Persuade and Refer, or QPR, program.

Q: How are you settling in at TCU so far?

A:I love it! The students here are really friendly. One of the things that has amazed me the most about the students is what great leadership training they get here. I got to see that through Frog Camp London, my first week of work. I went there with 30 new students, which was really fun for me, and the Frog Camp leaders’ skills really amazed me. I also got to observe Challenge B,training for the RA’s, and Orientation Student Assistants, who worked tirelessly to orient our 1,800 new students. I’m really impressed by our TCU student leaders.

Q: You have mentioned one of your major concerns for this year is student mental health. What major mental health issues do you see affecting TCU students?

A: My biggest concern is probably student depression. We’ve had four student suicides in 18 months, and that is very, very concerning to me. We also know that most students who commit suicide are not using campus counseling centers. I’m concerned with making students feel like they have opportunities for counseling and that we have enough staff to address student counseling needs and making sure that their friends, RA’s, housekeepers, dining services staff, faculty and everyone who comes in contact with them knows how to intervene and refer them to counseling. There is a program that we would like to start training people on called “QPR Suicide Intervention Training.” We have already trained the RA’s. Next, we will train the Student Affairs’ staff. I would like to train faculty and housekeepers–people who come in contact with students every day.

Q: How do you think the recent suicides have affected the morale on campus?
A:I think it’s really scary for students when someone they know commits suicide, and they didn’t even know this person felt so strongly. I think sometimes a student may have a clue or passing thought that a friend is suffering, but they don’t know what to do about it. I think that it’s really scary, but we could take that fear and turn it into something productive. QPR is one hour of training that would help students know when something is wrong and be able to refer someone on to mental health professionals.

Q: Do you feel like there’s an issue with TCU’s counseling services, or is this an awareness issue?

A:I completely believe it’s an awareness issue. I think our counseling services are fantastic, and I think students here have indicated their confidence in the counseling center. It’s just that if someone’s having issues, we have to get them to the counseling center.  We have to make sure students are well-aware of the resources here on campus.

Q: What are your plans to increase awareness about mental health issues this year?

A:I think the QPR training for staff is a great first step. I also think it’s important that people know it’s okay to talk about these issues because a lot of college students go through that when they come to campus. I don’t want students to feel like they can’t talk about it. I think it’s important for our staff to be able to get these conversations started.