Thanks to a concerned student, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s TIPS Incident Reporting System now has the option for students to report mental health and well-being related tips.
The option was added to the system in October after sophomore forensic science major Emma Sidel sent an email to Awareity, a service on the UNL website that allows people to select an incident type and report a related tip. The organization connected her to Vice Chancellor of Business and Finance William Nunez and Executive Specialist for Business and Finance Jordan Malone who help manage the tip reporting system.
Sidel then discussed the idea with Counseling and Psychological Services Director Tricia Besett-Alesch and the Director of Big Red Resilience & Well-Being Connie Boehm.
“I had a meeting with all of them, and we talked about what the system is lacking and what we can do to make it better,” Sidel said.
Sidel said her idea was inspired by an app called SafeUT that she used when she lived in Utah. She said the app allows students to talk with a crisis counselor, start a call, submit a tip to a school or look at tips they had submitted in the past. She also said she used the service to help friends who were struggling with their mental health.
“I used the app to chat with a crisis counselor to figure out what I should do and how I could help my friends,” she said.
Sidel said this experience helped shape the way she addresses mental health, and she thought there should be something like the SafeUT app available at UNL.
“In high school you could just go to your school counselor and ask them to check in on a student, but in college you can’t really do that,” she said.
Now, someone can submit a mental health and well-being related tip, and, according to Nunez, it will be sent to CAPS and Big Red Resilience & Well-Being.
Sidel said she believes the mental health tip option can provide assistance for students or faculty members when they are dealing with a mental health related issue and do not know where to turn.
If someone thinks a friend could be in need of mental health assistance, Sidel said they are probably right and should do something about it.
According to Sidel, the tip option is not intended for crises that need immediate attention. Someone in an emergency can contact CAPS, call the UNL police department, dial 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
“This is only the beginning of what we’re trying to do,” Sidel said. “It’s kind of an intermediate step until we can get long-term solutions.”
Through her work as an Association of Students of the University of Nebraska’s Campus Life and Safety Committee member, Sidel said her goal for the future is to make mental health tip reporting more accessible and cut down on response time as much as possible. She wants to do this by making an app and said she has been working with Nunez, Malone, Boehm and Besett-Alesch to make it happen.
“I want to create a completely comprehensive space on the app that has pretty much anything safety related,” she said. “It’d all be streamlined, so you don’t have to go to eight different websites to figure out where to find things.”
The planning process for the app is still underway, and it’s yet to be determined whether the app will be an addition to the existing UNL app or something entirely separate.
Either way, Nunez said he hopes the updates help the university keep up with the evolution of technology and provide optimal tools for the student body.
“We want to do it smart; we want to do it right,” he said. “And we want it to have some duration.”
This article was modified at 5:58 p.m. on Nov. 11 to change the headline in order to clarify that the TIPS Incident Reporting System was not added to the UNL website, but rather, a mental health and well-being component was added to the TIPS Incident Reporting System.