Cuddly Critters to Help Keep Vital Info at Arms' Reach
Texas A&M University-Commerce is required by mandate to distribute certain crisis hotline numbers to all students, faculty, and staff as a matter of course. Title IX Coordinator Nathan Perry, who works in the university's Office of Compliance, suggests there may be another way to make sure these vital contacts aren't filed away and forgotten.
Jerrod Knight: Knowing who to contact – and how – during a personal crisis can be of the utmost importance, and sometimes a matter of life and death. But remembering 800 numbers for the suicide prevention hotline or rape crisis center is rarely top-of-mind, which can sometimes leave those details a little too far out of reach. Texas A&M University-Commerce Title IX Coordinator Nathan Perry describes the issue.
Nathan Perry: “We have a world of compliance requirements. We have a legal mandate to disseminate certain crisis contact information and what the literature tells us is that this paperwork does not have a very long half-life – we were talking weeks, maybe a month at best. So, when affiliates arrive at campus, whether they’re employees or a student, they receive a binder or stack of these papers initially, and where does that go? In all likelihood, into the trash, honestly, or into a file folder. And what you don’t want to do when you’re in a crisis is have to dig through your trash or dig through a binder for resources to save your life.”
JK: The answer, in Perry’s mind, was an entirely different approach to disseminating this requisite and necessary information. What he needed was…
NP: “…A product that has the need of providing resources, both internal and external, that are in this cohesive package, and what I found was that doesn’t exist. I made a demo product; I actually just attached an index card with what this would look like and put a little necklace around a stuffed animal and I presented this at an executive meeting, and [former university president] Dr. [Ray] Keck and the executive board provided the money to get a very large initial shipment of these made. And the whole idea is that even if it’s forgotten, it’s still functional. So if someone takes this (I don’t know why) to a restaurant and they leave it in the booth, and someone from the community picks it up, it’s still functional to the community. The contact numbers are the same; the locations are the same. Nothing on that list is specifically accessible only to a TAMUC student or affiliate. Anyone can use those resources listed. So, I see it as outreach both internally and externally to the community. ”
JK: Perry wasn’t tasked with solving this problem – it was one he wanted to tackle for this community before he even moved to Commerce.
NP: “So, quite bluntly, this is a university that has struggled with suicide. When I was looking at universities to work for, when Texas A&M University [Commerce] comes up, the first article was about [former university president] Dr. [Dan] Jones’ suicide. This is an issue that we have to address directly, and not in this whole “national issue” kind of context. We need to address it for our specific community within this specific area of time.”
JK: These stuffed animal resources are being distributed throughout the university community now, but will likely make their way into the wider region. If you come across one, feel free to share and share alike. For KETR News, I’m Jerrod Knight.