Indian Hills Insight July

by Kevin Pink

Information Director, Indian Hills Community College

One of the new staff additions at Indian Hills Community College this summer is Laci Morrissey, the college’s new full-time Mental Health Counselor.  Morrissey will take the place of a contracted service for mental health needs that IHCC utilized in the past few years.

Morrissey was hired, according to Dr. Brett Monaghan, Executive Dean, Student Development, “due to the overwhelming need for a consistent mental health presence on campus.”  She will be based on the Ottumwa campus, but will also regularly travel to the Centerville and North campuses and be available at any of the other locations in IHCC’s ten-county region.  Monaghan points out that fewer than 15 percent of community colleges offer a mental health counselor, at a time when those schools face an increasing challenge of meeting the mental health needs of their students.

“I’m very excited to join a team that understands, values and prioritizes the mental health needs of its community, and I look forward to all the possibilities this position brings,” said Morrissey, who was previously employed at the Southern Iowa Mental Health Center.

Mental health is about understanding who we are as individuals and as a community, according to Morrissey, who holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in community counseling.  “Since they encompass most all components of daily life (learning/work, social, housing, nutrition, fitness, fun, etc.) colleges have a great opportunity to take a proactive approach toward supporting mental health,” she said.

Having a licensed mental health professional on staff, said Morrissey, will allow for more readily available early intervention and education on healthy life skills – things like coping with daily stressors, interpersonal relationships and interactions, communication, problem-solving and decision-making, and healthy-thinking and habits.  Morrissey adds that she also hopes to promote a sense of altruism to battle the isolation and loneliness that our technological culture often brings.

Monaghan is excited about the new position, explaining the contracted service formerly in place positively affected students on the Ottumwa campus.  Morrissey, he adds, will be a key hire not only for Indian Hills students, but faculty and staff as well.  “We need to educate ourselves on mental health challenges that face our student population on a daily basis,” Monaghan said.

The Steve Fund, a non-profit whose stated mission is promoting the mental health and emotional well-being of students of color, cited a 2016 report, Too Distressed to Learn, that found that “community college students are more likely than students in four-year colleges to experience risk factors associated with mental health concerns.”  The Steve Fund article said that “while many community college students face mental health challenges, they often don’t seek help or help is not available” and that “there is a significant need for support and services that could help students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.”

Indian Hills has taken another step to provide that support with this enhanced service.

Morrissey’s new office will be located in Trustee Hall, once the renovation of that residence hall on the Ottumwa campus is completed prior to the beginning of the new academic year in August.

(This is a monthly column, provided by Indian Hills Community College)