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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Crisis services encompass both emergency and counseling support

Published: October 26, 2012
Section: Features

Students in crisis seeking peer support can find counseling at both STAR and the Brandeis Counseling and Rape Crisis Hotline.

“I think both services are vital, honestly,” said Lauren Grewal ’13, co-coordinator of STAR referring to both services.

STAR refers to “Students Talking About Relationships,” and is composed of a group of peer counselors who hold weekly office hours. Founded in 2004, Grewal described STAR’s mission as “to be there for the student body in a safe, non-judgmental, confidential environment.”

Grewal said there is always a person present during open hours to talk to or answer emails. Grewal also explained that the training for STAR is intensive.

“All of our counselors go through a month of training for about 30-40 hours before they begin having office hours in a number of subjects. We also have an E-Board which is comprised of seven returning counselors who are an extra resource to the rest of the counselors,” Grewal said.

New counselors have to go through an application process, which includes interviews. If accepted, Grewal said, students must “agree to make STAR training in the fall a priority, considering that trainings are mandatory.” With this training, counselors go on to have face-to-face meetings with students attempting to cope with varied problems. STAR attempts to aid in all ways possible.

“We keep pamphlets and resources in the room where people receive counseling. We are able to be a resource when something is pressing during the day, since all you need to do is come inside for however long you want,” Grewal said.

The Brandeis Counseling and Rape Crisis Hotline is a phone service open every night from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. where students may call in anonymously. Due to its anonymous nature, the hotline is unable to answer questions about the size of their staff, but they are composed of undergraduates at Brandeis who go through training and testing with only a few chosen to serve on the actual hotline.

The hotline was created in the early 1970s, to serve students when they were experiencing moments of panic or crisis. The organization realizes that sometimes all students are looking for is a friendly person on the other end of the line.

“Sometimes all you need is someone who cares enough to listen. If you need to talk about anything at all, always feel free to call. If you are concerned about a friend, we are also here to listen and help you through that,” the BCRCH said in a statement.

While the hotline and STAR’s areas of expertise overlap, there are differences between the two.

“STAR is an in person, peer to peer counseling, while BCRCH is anonymous and confidential over the phone. Also, while STAR specializes in relationships, BCRCH is for any moment of crisis or just needing someone to talk to,” the BCRCH said.

Grewal commented on the differences in times of operation, saying “I think they compliment each other well in the sense that together the two services allow people on campus to seek help for around 12 hours a day.” While students may have a preference for one service over another, BCRCH insists, “both resources are well trained and prepared to support students, and Brandeisians should feel free to use whichever one they are most comfortable with.”

Both services are also aware of the stigma that is often attached to psychological support services.

“The stigma exists here like it does everywhere else in society,” Grewal said. “The only way to combat that is to have more acceptance for psychological services. If more people were open about seeing someone, or if more people admitted they have seen someone or would see someone if they needed to, I think the stigma would be broken down a bit.”

BCRCH admits that everyone heals differently, but some people do find it helpful to use a hotline or a form of therapy. “You should never be embarrassed to seek help. It is completely normal, and many people choose to utilize hotlines or therapy to help further explore their options or feelings. It is very brave to take the steps to help yourself heal,” the BCRCH said.

STAR will be holding a number of events on campus this semester, in order to raise
awareness about the club and its potential benefits.

“Speaking as students of Brandeis University, we would just like to express to the public that sexual assault and rape can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age or location. The survivor is never to be blamed, and should never be made to feel attacked or at fault,” the BCRCH said.