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Risk Assessment: IES Abroad Goes Beyond Mere Preparedness

CHICAGO, Feb. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In light of recent episodes involving mass violence on several American college campuses, many colleges and universities have begun work to help close any gap that too often exists in the identification and assessment of students with serious mental health issues on their campuses.

IES Abroad, one of the most experienced and reputable providers of international study programs for U.S. college and university students, has implemented the means to go beyond mere preparedness for such students to the introduction of a risk assessment protocol aimed at helping its international faculty and staff to better identify and respond to the first signs of a student's serious mental health or behavior issues.

This protocol expands upon existing IES Abroad health and safety programs to incorporate a holistic range of innovative approaches designed to better assess and proactively respond to serious student mental health or behavioral issues of which it becomes aware. The Threat Assessment Team will serve as the coordinating hub of the protocol, charged with focusing on early detection, prevention, and intervention aimed at mental health and behavior concerns.

Building upon IES Abroad's almost 60-year history of dedication to the health and safety of its students, this protocol includes the following:

  • The creation of the Threat Assessment Team, including experienced student affairs professionals, international staff members, leading academics from the study abroad field, a leading risk assessment expert, and a consulting psychologist with more than 20 years of professional experience in student counseling centers, to review critical cases.
  • Mandatory training of key international staff and ongoing monthly training webinars.
  • Publication of a policy and procedures manual with protocol for various types of emergencies, including but not limited to situations like major depressive episodes, serious eating disorders, substance abuse incidents, thoughts of violence towards others, and/or suicidal thoughts.
  • Creation of a confidential and secure Student Information Tracking System (SITS) to compile web-based case notes on student incidents.
  • Post-admission and pre-departure health consultation with students.
  • Identification of and referral to English-speaking mental health professionals at all overseas sites.

IES Abroad understands that concerns about student mental health and disruptive behavior on college campuses are on the rise. A 2007 national survey of university counseling center directors at more than 330 institutions found that nine out of 10 directors (91.5%) reported seeing more students with serious psychological problems than they saw five years ago. (Gallagher, 2007)

IES Abroad believes that all providers of international education programs have a responsibility to address these same concerns. It has done so by building upon its 60-year history of development and implementation of system-wide health and safety programs to create the Threat Assessment protocol.

IES Abroad suggests that, before enrolling in any international education program, students and parents ask specific questions about the provider's health and safety measures and support network. These questions should include issues such as the international health insurance that the program provides and whether or not it always provides access to English-speaking doctors and counseling, as well as whether the program's staff always accompany physically or mentally ill students to healthcare appointments; the screening measures the provider uses to identify homestay families; the training of local staff on health and safety measures; and what protocols are followed to ensure communications with all students, home campuses, and parents in the event of a crisis.

IES Abroad is one of the nation's oldest, largest, and most reputable study abroad providers. Founded in 1950, IES Abroad is a growing Chicago-based, not-for-profit organization that enrolls more than 5,000 students annually. Committed to quality, IES Abroad is comprised of a consortium of more than 175 highly-selective U.S. colleges and universities. With more than 80 programs in 31 locations, IES Abroad is dedicated to offering students outstanding academic options coupled with everyday opportunities for immersion in the local culture.

IES Abroad believes that every student should study abroad and encourages students from all backgrounds to embark on this life-changing experience.

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