LEAP OF FAITH
At the core of the program is a culture where no one hides
– no students and no staff.
“The culture we have developed is one where if you are
working for Kaplan Business School, you are responsible for
looking out for those signs. Simple as that,” Adonopoulos
says. “If we had one team responsible for monitoring and
looking out for those signals, I don’t think the program would
succeed. The culture is important.”
Depending on the triggers, staff members know who to
talk to in order to implement interventions. Sometimes it’s
as simple as a phone call.
But monitoring all signals is no easy feat, and the only
trick that genuinely works is knowing the students. “The only
way you can detect it is if you know the student. I guess
we pride ourselves on the fact that we tell students that you
can’t really hide at any of our campuses because our small
classes mean we know everyone by name. ”
Breaking down barriers
But students can still manage to escape attention. Some are
better at hiding than others, especially when cultural stigma
against seeking help for mental health issues is at play.
When KBS’ analysis revealed that results for Chinese
students were consistently lower than any other nationality,
the team started focus groups with students to understand
what the underlying cause may be and instigate the ‘China-specific
student support strategy.’
54 | THE PIE REVIEW | ISSUE #24
“There is still
a stigma associated
with meeting with a
Oxley, animal assisted activity
specialist at Ohio State University
PHOTO: OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
“What was revealed to us was that many of them are here
because the parents have forced them to come here, they
feel a lot of pressure to perform, and this has a negative
impact,” Adonopoulos says.
The strategy worked, but not all initiatives were
successful, Adonopoulos recounts. A well-publicised series
of group sessions with a Mandarin-speaking psychologist
didn’t see many turn up, while individual sessions were
slightly more popular. “There’s still a stigma associated with
meeting with a psychologist,” Adonopoulos concludes.
While this stigma may be culturally specific, and stake-holders
observe it’s slowly fading across the board, it can
still be daunting for students to seek mental health support.
Some enlist the help of our best friends.
Events such as the aptly-named ‘Barkbeck’ at Birkbeck,
University of London, UK – where students can mingle with
dogs, cats and even baby foxes, to combat exam season
stress – are becoming increasingly common, while other
institutions count on trained professional help.
In the US, Ohio State University’s animal assisted
activity specialist is Oxley, a two-year-old sheepadoodle
with a Therapy Dog international certification in his
“As a team, Oxley and I provide a creative approach to
psychiatric services within the Student Life Counselling
and Consultation Services,” the chief of psychiatry at OSU,
LaRae M Copley, tells The PIE.
“It’s clear to me that Oxley is a calming presence in the
room, which can be helpful for students struggling with
stigma around seeking treatment.”
Each student has the chance to indicate whether they
want to work with Oxley or not – and the majority very
much wants to.
“Responses have been overwhelmingly positive from both
domestic and international students,” Copley states.