Resources for Students: APU CARES Supports Students in Need

by Stephanie Thurrott

Over the course of their college years, many students face family crises, encounter mental or physical health issues, or have difficulty navigating their academic courses. These situations are often a part of life, but when students are struggling, they may not know how or where to seek help.

It’s important for them to connect with the available resources for students on campus. At Azusa Pacific University, the APU Cougar Alert, Refer, and Engage System (APU CARES program) can help provide crucial support in times of crisis.

“APU is invested in all students’ holistic well-being, so that each will be able to fulfill their God-given academic and personal potential,” said Bill Fiala, Ph.D., dean of student wellness at APU. “APU CARES is a partnership between academic success and student affairs personnel that provides the campus with a means to inform us of students who might be at risk academically and/or emotionally.”

Connecting Students with Care

Often, it’s peers, faculty, staff, or family members who spot the signs that a student is struggling. They may notice that a student is withdrawn, misses class frequently, or isn’t turning in assignments. But they don’t know how they can help, outside of offering their own support. That’s where APU CARES comes in.

APU CARES provides resources for students, so anyone who is concerned about an enrolled pupil can submit a Student in Crisis Notification Form online. The form reaches a team of experts from wellness and academic areas, including the Academic Success Center and Student Affairs. They then respond to the report and quickly connect the student with resources and staff that can help.

“Once we are made aware of a student in distress, we are able to determine an appropriate strategy for reaching out and connecting the student with on- or off-campus support,” Fiala said.

Resources for students like APU CARES are critical in helping to curb the mental health crisis that many of today’s college students are experiencing. According to the American College Health Association, students reported that the following factors affected their academic performance:

  • Stress: 34.2 percent
  • Anxiety: 27.8 percent
  • Sleep difficulties: 22.4 percent
  • Depression: 20.2 percent
  • Death of a family member or friend: 6.2 percent
  • Chronic health problem: 4.6 percent

“There is no shortage of articles and publications documenting the college mental health crisis that campuses across the country are facing,” Fiala noted. “It is critical that universities invest in prevention and early intervention as one means of addressing these trends and minimizing the number of students who might otherwise fall through the cracks.”

A Long History of Helping Students

Fiala pointed out that the online format of APU CARES makes it easy for people to connect students with the help they need, but an intervention system has been in place at APU for at least 20 years.

“APU has had a care team in place since before I began here in 1999, though the online reporting option for students of concern is a more recent development,” Fiala said. “This has streamlined our ability to intervene with students early, helping them to connect with support personnel and guiding them to appropriate campus resources.”

Fiala reported that during the 2018-19 academic year, approximately 575 submissions were made through the APU CARES system. Knowing that students are getting the help they need is incredibly encouraging.

Do you see signs that a student may be in crisis? Submit a Student in Crisis Notification Form online and help them connect with support.