Counseling and Health Services Answer Call to Help

When Manhattan College students get sick, they have a place to go – Health Services. Located on the first floor of Alumni Hall, the health services department prides itself on being students’ best option for speedy, efficient, confidential care that’s free of charge.

The health services office works closely with another critical office on Manhattan’s campus, the counseling center on the fifth floor of Miguel Hall.

While Health Services specializes more in the physical health of student’s bodies, the counseling center handles the mental side of things.

“Our offices have overlap in many ways,” Jennifer McArdle, director of counseling and health services, said. McArdle works out of Miguel Hall’s counseling center. “I refer a lot of students to Amy [Dall] for prescriptions.”

Amy Dall, FNP-BC, is the assistant director of health services, handling the more physical side of student illnesses. She operates out of the office in Alumni Hall.

“Going to college is a big leap. Everybody is doing everything for themselves for the first time,” Dall said. Dall keeps this in mind when she sees students for medical issues.

Dall arrived at Manhattan in 2010 after leaving a position at New York Medical College in Westchester. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The College at Brockport, State University of New York; a masters degree in clinical psychology from Long Island University; and a third graduate degree in nursing from Pace University.

Dall is a licensed nurse practitioner in New York State, granting her the authority to prescribe medication. Dall also works in Westchester at Westmed Medical Group and Open Door Family Medical Centers.

The cases that Dall receives at Manhattan College vary from the severe to the banal – including the flu and common cold, all the way up to appendicitis. Dall said that usually at least one student per year comes to her needing an appendectomy.

Most of the cases that the counseling side of the department deal with involve issues of anxiety and depression.

The counseling center has been especially busy these last two weeks, according to McArdle. During her time here, McArdle has noted patterns in the number of students who come to the center, and one of the spikes usually aligns with midterm exam week.

“Midterms and finals can be very anxiety provoking,” McArdle said. “Right now it’s very hectic because of that.”

Schoolwork is not the only major stressor for students on campus, however. Romance, breakups, parent pressure, financial burden and the transition from home life to college life are all psychological strains placed on Manhattan College students at one time or another, McArdle commented.

Both McArdle and Dall acknowledge the limitations on what they can do for students. Both offices are open only during the week, and both offices can only do so much for students.

“Triage is so important,” McArdle said. “[We need to] help those who need it the most.”

The offices can be especially busy during times of health crises, such as the H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic that struck in 2009. In cases like these, it’s important for Health Services to be able to communicate readily with students.

“We work with the administration to communicate and prevent hysteria,” Dall said. “We had meningitis here a few years ago […] We brought in outside help.”

Health Services is regularly sends students to get additional care off campus at local hospitals. Usually, students will be transported by public safety to New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital in Inwood, Manhattan, or to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Downtown Yonkers.

“Our public safety is amazing,” Dall said. “If I am even the slightest bit concerned, they are in my office so fast.”

During off hours when both offices are closed, Dall and McArdle say to go first to your resident assistant, resident director or to public safety.

“Reach out to your RA or RD or public safety,” Dall said. “When in doubt, hit 911.”

It is also important that students be active bystanders, McArdle said, discussing a hypothetical case of a student who is threatening to hurt themselves.

“If someone is a threat to themselves or others, we have to intervene,” McArdle said. “It’s really a psychiatric emergency.”

The department trains resident assistants each semester to be active bystanders in situations like these. Both Dall and McArdle agree that Manhattan College students can be and usually are active bystanders who support the community.

“We have a bunch of good kids on this campus – people who care about each other, with good heads on their shoulders,” Dall said.