Students going through difficulties related to academic, mental health or crisis situations now have additional resources and support through Coastal Alabama Community College’s Early Alert …
Students going through difficulties related to academic, mental health or crisis situations now have additional resources and support through Coastal Alabama Community College’s Early Alert program.
Early Alert went online in Fall 2021, to not only promote wellbeing but to offer a way for students to seek help for themselves or others should the need arise. Through its web interface, the system helps ensure anonymity and discretion for those who use it, avoiding any perceived stigmas that could lead to hesitation from those needing assistance.
“Confidentiality is very important to this process,” said Diana McCullough, one of Coastal Alabama Community College’s counselors. She is a member of the Early Alert Behavior Intervention Team, which includes campus directors, counselors, campus police and others.
McCullough said she’s had to be more available to students than ever before, but it is still possible that some won’t seek the help they need, or even realize they’re in danger. It is often peers or faculty members who notice changes in a student’s behavior, she said. And Early Alert gives them a way to request help in a way that avoids delay.
“In a lot of situations, time is of the essence,” McCullough said. “With the new system, they fill out the form online and it comes directly into my inbox, so I see it immediately after they submit it.
That way I can respond accordingly.”
In critical circumstances, that expediency can save lives. And while those acute cases are rare, what happens far more often is that off-campus pressures and situations cause hardships that gradually become harder and harder for a student to deal with. That includes homelessness, food insecurity, domestic issues and financial hardship. Many times, simple conversations with students whose grades have started dropping leads to a deeper understanding of what they’re really going through.
Once those issues are identified, solutions can follow, which results in a healthier and more secure environment for Coastal Alabama Community College’s students, faculty and staff.
“When students come here, they trust us with their safety and wellbeing while they’re here, so we’ve made that a priority of ours,” said Jonathan Davidson, the college’s Chief of Police. “This is how we’re doing that.”
Early Alert helps create a “culture of caring and stability,” according to Diana McCullough. And that’s particularly important as students return to campuses post-pandemic, she said.
“There’s always an option or a resource that could help in any type of situation,” McCullough said. “It’s important that we get back to that feeling of caring for each other, because especially in this last year and a half, we've become so isolated.
“Hopefully this will bring about a feeling of unity and let everyone know that there is always someone who cares, who is accessible and available.”