FARMINGTON HILLS — In the 15 years that Oakland Community College Public Safety Director Terry McCauley has protected college students, he has noticed a dramatic increase in the number of students who need protection, sometimes from themselves: students who have suicidal ideations and mental health-related issues.
But McCauley said he and his 24-member police staff — stationed throughout all five campuses — are ready to handle these issues. Their Public Safety Department was recently ranked in the top three out of 1,400 community colleges nationwide in the category of College Safety and Planning. The OCC department was honored in June at the American Association of Community Colleges conference in New Orleans.
“I think it is prevalent across the country,” McCauley said of mental health issues growing among college students.
OCC met certain standards pertaining to a number of safety and response criteria.
“We do this ... by having enhanced communication and training opportunities and other community outreach issues trying to understand responsible behavior across all five of our campuses so that we can be responsive to our students and our employees,” McCauley said.
“We are gratified to see the work we are doing to ensure a safe learning environment is being recognized,” OCC interim Chancellor Peter Provenzano said in a press release. “This remains a real team effort across the college, one of which we are committed to for continuous improvement.”
McCauley added that OCC has formed a Suicide and Mental Health Response Task Force that created administrative guidelines and procedures to provide a steady college-wide response to students dealing with suicidal thoughts or mental health issues.
According to the press release, OCC conducts regular crisis training, including active shooter and campus crisis team practice scenarios.
OCC also updated its emergency alert system to provide more immediate and effective notifications. The college routinely reviews and updates its safety procedures for labs and classrooms, according to the press release.
McCauley said they are not alone in their work to help reduce and eliminate safety issues around the campus.
“A lot of people and staff across all the campuses and our district office help us remain compliant and responsive to the community’s needs — that is the good thing,” he said.
McCauley said there are not many violent incidents around campus, but there are some stalking incidents.
“That is one of the benefits of having an on-site police department personnel who can respond to those issues,” he said, adding that no one has been injured in any of the stalking events. “So that is a good thing.”
OCC Executive Marketing Director Janet Roberts said via email that OCC submitted its nomination for the award.
She added that with suicide being the second-leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds, globally — according to the World Health Organization — it only made sense to take preventative action.
“Given most college students fall within this (age) range, suicide is a very serious issue on campuses across the country,” she said via email. “At OCC, the safety of our students is one of our top priorities.”
Roberts said that the Suicide and Mental Health Response Task Force was launched in summer 2016 after a student attempted suicide.
She said OCC works with a number of agencies to provide additional support services for students.
“We are certainly honored to have received this award. But our true reward is the success of our students. This recognition reinforces the steps we have taken to provide our students a safe and secure place to learn and achieve,” she said.
McCauley said OCC campus members bring the college’s middle name, “community,” to life.
OCC’s five campuses have nearly 20,000 students.
For more information, go to www.oaklandcc.edu or visit the college’s safety page, www.oaklandcc.edu/publicsafety.