Students pay a lot to go to college. While colleges seem to attempt to respect that fact through offering effective teachers, adequate food and other such amenities, many campuses fall short when it comes to their counseling services for mental health.
Seattle Pacific University has a decent counseling center. Students are given six free sessions a year and the staff are willing to help students find mental health counselors off-campus, if needed, who would lower their rates for students.
Other college campuses, however, are not as helpful.
Tyler LaVare, a friend of mine who attends Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Virginia, remarked that his campus does not have any sort of mental health counseling services that he knows of.
If they do offer such services, he mentioned that they are not advertised enough for students to know they exist. Nationally, there is a steadily growing demand from high school and college students for mental health services at their schools, according to a 2017 report from the Collegiate Center for Mental Health.
This increased demand needs to be accompanied by more efficient and more effective care from college counselors when it comes to mental health.
Meghan Burnett, who attends the College of Saint Mary in Omaha and is a member of a college advice support group chat on Twitter, mentioned that “[the school] didn’t really promote that there was any mental health services. I only knew about them after my crisis …there was services, but they weren’t promoted and those who used them told me they weren’t very helpful.”
However, there is evidence that some universities are taking heed of complaints from students. According to Taylor Knopf of North Carolina Health News, North Carolina Central University in Durham is training its staff and faculty in mental health first aid to provide preventative care and catch mental health problems before they escalate.
Although these schools seem to be making changes and recognizing the rising demand for mental health services, there are many improvements that still need to be made.
The fact is that these schools could all benefit from improved funding, and aligning both the college’s and their counseling services goals to bettering their care for students.
According to Penn State News, the “Center for Collegiate Mental Health Annual Report suggests that in order to adequately meet rising demand with limited resources, college and university counseling centers must strive to align their policy and funding decisions with institutional priorities.”
While many colleges are able to do so, others simply do not have the funding or ability to adequately care for all of their students.
Emphasis should be on addressing anxiety and depression, as those are the two main mental health challenges that have shown a clear growing trend of prevalence in previous years, according to the CCMH report.
Miranda Keith, a student-parent who attends Iowa State University and frequents the same advice chat as Burnett, mentions that her school has wonderful services, but for someone like her who has social anxiety, “it’s difficult for me to actually use these services. … I think it would be super helpful if they had more flexible services, ..”
To help students manage an already stressful environment, schools must learn from stories like LaVare’s, Burnett’s and Keith’s and offer services to students who need them.
There needs to be a streamlined approach to colleges supporting counseling services and vice versa. In order to help lower this increasing demand for mental health services we need to begin by demanding that colleges support their counseling services in efforts to spread information about what is offered.
Support is imperative and must be a two-way street between college and counseling service.
We must demand an efficient counseling center to support students in their collegiate endeavors.
And we must demand respect for those who do suffer from mental illnesses and foster a safe environment where students feel as though they can discuss issues that are bothering them.