Paying back and supporting Northwest Indiana

Thomas Keon

Universities garner significant support from their surrounding communities and geographic regions. Of course, public universities also benefit from state support, which has been generous in Indiana as compared to other states in the nation.

As chancellor, one of my goals is for the university to be a contributor to Northwest Indiana. In previous columns, I emphasized Purdue Northwest’s efforts to proactively shape the region. Yes, universities should impact their communities educationally, culturally and economically. However, there are times when a university should just simply pay forward for the well-being of the community.

Purdue University Northwest is fully opening the Indianapolis Boulevard Counseling Center building near our Hammond Campus this month. Last spring, we opened the Northwest Indiana Couple & Family Therapy Center. Now, we are relocating our Community Counseling Center into the building. Both centers were also intentionally placed off-campus to allow students to directly assist the NWI community.

Today’s fast-paced society has increased individual stress and produced a world full of anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older, or 18.1 percent of the population every year.

Though anxiety disorders are treatable, only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment. Too many individuals in our community refrain from seeking counseling services owing to stereotypes and misperceptions. As a university, not only should we provide counseling services, we must also break down barriers preventing those within our community from seeking out and receiving needed help.

PNW’s new Counseling Center is designed to be accessible, affordable and welcoming to Hispanics, African Americans, Caucasians, and all members of our diverse community. The Couple & Family Therapy Center services individuals, couples and families who are in need of help. Clients tend to be in every age range, with about one-third between the ages of 26 and 35. The range of clients for the Community Counseling Center is broader, including children and adolescents, as well as middle-age and older adults.

The significant difference between the two centers is the client focus – one focusing on family issues and the other tending toward individual issues, such as anxiety, depression, addiction, autism, academic problems, death and dying.

Neither center aggressively advertises or tries to compete against other counseling centers. Referrals commonly come from the courts or other state agencies that understand individual needs and financial or insurance limitations. This is of particular value to the community, in that the university is giving back while providing an educational outlet for students.

Students working in both centers are well-versed and screened before interacting with clients. Additionally, these are controlled settings with students who are closely supervised by faculty that are highly regarded in their field. The reputation of PNW’s Marriage & Family Therapy program within the mental health profession is strong and attracts students from all over the United States. Both centers also benefit by having close ties to PNW graduates who now work in the community.

Purdue Northwest faculty and students are dedicated to NWI and want to provide support to enrich the lives of those in our community. While this column has focused on the Community Counseling Center, PNW has in many ways opened its doors and talents to our neighbors. Likewise, Indiana University Northwest, Ivy Tech, Calumet College of St. Joseph and Valparaiso University all have ways in which they pay back to the NWI community, as well.

Universities are not islands, but rather great contributors to the overall well-being of their communities.

Thomas Keon is chancellor of Purdue University Northwest.


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