Kimberly Gallant is relaxed as she sits at her desk in a bright, spacious, air-conditioned office in the Administration building. She had missed the Get IT event held earlier in the day — missed it because she had to address a student crisis that spanned multiple campuses and involved emergency personnel. Perfectly composed despite this affair, she realized she wouldn’t be able to do all the things left on her calendar.
“There are a lot of unintended consequences while providing services out of a one-person office,” Gallant said.
She’s the mental health counselor for the HonCC Wellness Center, and consequences, like missed meetings, canceled class presentations, and skipped lunch breaks, take a back seat when Gallant must respond to a student experiencing a mental health issue or is in immediate crisis.
“The Wellness Center is a safe, confidential space for students to come,” she said. “They can come talk about personal issues, academic concerns, whatever might be going on in their life, they can come here and have a conversation and we work to help support them.”
The Center provides confidential personal/crisis counseling and community referral services registered students. Counseling services are strength-based and solution-focused to help students manage personal life issues and navigate their college experience.
Located in room 103 on the ground floor of the Administration building, the Center is open to any student wanting mental health and wellness services. Students may make an appointment with Gallant, where they are assessed through a screen process. She determines what services a student may need, and to what extent. Wellness Center services are short-term, with the goal of referral out to community providers for higher levels of care.
For some students, a single session with Gallant is all they need, maybe to process and problem-solve a situation, or discuss a personal concern. Others may be in need of more intermediate or even extended care, in which case she may see a student for several sessions, with a care plan developed for the student to follow.
“This is a way of figuring what would be most helpful. Students are experts of their own lives. I’m here as a supportive resource and help them navigate the process of figuring out their life circumstances.”
Students may self-refer, or be referred by a HonCC instructor or staff member. Calling or sending email is the best way to connect with Gallant to make an appointment.
Some of the issues students may be struggling with include depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide. Some students seeking Center services have a mental health diagnosis, and are already connected with a third-party service provider, working with a therapist or psychiatrist getting their conditions treated. Others may already be connected to community providers and may want to utilize the Center as an additional source of support on campus.
A crisis may take up a few hours of Gallant’s time to address, sometimes up to an entire day. A few crisis issues students may present with include being actively suicidal, suffering a death in the family, or a Title IX issue (ex. sexual assault, domestic violence, rape). In these cases, Gallant may coordinate their care with community resources, or emergency personnel like EMS or HPD further evaluation and care.
The Center works with the Title IX law, which prohibits sex discrimination in education. Gallant said that HonCC has been particularly proactive working with the law the last three to four years. “Title IX areas are still our focus. But [the issues addressed by Title IX] oftentimes are interwoven into the needs of students with mental health conditions, [so] I’m seeing a higher incidence of needing to serve overall mental health conditions and crisis situations than just dealing with Title IX [specific] issues [only],” said Gallant.
“Oftentimes, school is their safe haven, because home is not,” Gallant said. “So being able to be at school and connect with other people is a valuable opportunity to make steps to change their life circumstances when they’re ready.”
The Wellness Center has been in operation for almost 10 years. Gallant has been with Center for at least that long, and she herself has worked in the social work field for 25 years including the areas of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, trauma, mental health, substance abuse, and sexual exploitation of women and children. Gallant worked with the Sex Abuse Treatment Center as a crisis counselor, and acquired additional experience through the Domestic violence Action Center. She worked for several years on the streets of Waikiki providing services to women and children involved in prostitution.
Gallant is aware that her work can be mentally stressing on herself. “Crisis cases can be extremely difficult to carry, especially after bearing witness to their struggles,” she said.
“[I’ll] get out of the office and go for a walk from building 6 to building 7 just to get some fresh air. Or eat lunch on the picnic table outside just to get centered…shift gears and talk to colleagues and see how they’re doing.” Gallant even engages in Capoeira (brazilian martial arts). Gallant makes sure to leave work at work, and “totally disconnect after 4:30p.”
By Larry Medina, Ka La staff writer