A group of Rowan University students on Monday called for the school to offer more mental health services following the death of a student last week near campus.
University officials haven’t released information about the death, other than to acknowledge a student had passed away. Neither have Glassboro police, who said they are investigating. But the student apparently died by suicide at the same four-story parking garage where another student died two years ago, and word of the death has spread among the 19,000-member student body.
“It really hit me hard because I struggled with mental illness before,” said Sophia Mirabella, 23, a junior from Flemington, N.J., in an interview before the students held a campus rally. “It hit everyone really hard.”
» READ MORE: Student suicides have shaken Rowan University
Mirabella, who is serving as a spokesperson for the student group, said mental health needs are even more acute following the pandemic, which isolated and traumatized students. Nearly 2,000 have signed a change.org petition demanding better resources.
During the 2019 fall semester, three Rowan students died by suicide, more than school officials could remember happening at one time, prompting several hundred students and staff members to pack a campus ballroom and share their concerns. Some at the time expressed doubts about Rowan’s ability to serve students in crisis and called for better mental health support.
Rowan officials say they have made much progress since then, noting a list of 18 improvements. Help is readily available in a variety of formats, including telehealth visits, they said.
“There is no wait-list anymore,” said Joe Cardona, a university spokesperson. “You walk in the door, we see you.”
The university added a team to triage students when they arrive or call for help. The school also has increased the number and diversity of counselors, now employing 15 full time. Rowan offers a variety of support groups, created a partnership with local mental health providers, and added training for staff, the university said.
There were no student suicides last school year, Cardona said.
Mirabella called the university’s comments as “a slap in the face.” She said some members of her group have reached out for help and haven’t gotten a timely response.
Nindi Georges, 18, a freshman from Camden County, said the wellness center was closed a few times when she went. Two weeks ago, her anxiety was very bad and she was able to see someone, but only for a short time, she said.
She said she called the center several times on Monday but had to wait four hours to get a callback.
“I could only talk to him for a little bit because he was busy again,” she said. “If someone was in a far worse situation than I was, who knows what could have happened in that four hours? So much can happen in four hours.”
The group is calling for more funding and staffing for the wellness center. Georges said the center should remain open 24/7 through weekends. The center is currently open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, according to its website.
Mirabella said she was upset the university hadn’t provided more information about the recent student death, prompting students to hold the rally for change.
Cardona said the university was not releasing details out of respect for the privacy of the student’s family.