Counseling services on college campuses: are they doing enough?

Meet Bella the Chihuahua, Erica Deditch's emotional support animal and best friend.

By Erica

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life. It makes me terrified of everything. I mean, literally everything – talking to people, leaving my house, going out. Everything. Going to college didn’t help. For me personally, college only made it worse. New people, new place and being away from my pets and family just heightened everything I was already feeling. I sought out the help of the on-campus counseling center, which helped — but not enough.

Having a counselor on campus was good for me, but what I really needed was anti-anxiety medication and my best friend, a chihuahua named Bella. However, none of these services are available on campus, along with many others. Many college students across America struggle in the same way with their mental health.

Around 13% of students reported having symptoms of anxiety, and more than 18% reported symptoms of depression, according to a American College Health Association survey.

These numbers have only continued to increase. Counseling services on college campuses are not up to par with what their students need. They are often not allowed to write letters for emotional support animals, prescribe medication or allow health services to do so, or even have time for sufficient one on one counseling. Due to these issues, students are often sent off campus to external mental health professionals.

Counseling isn’t cheap. Often, it’s not even covered by insurance.

On Thervo, a popular website for finding mental health professionals, people can expect to pay $300 to $500 for their initial consultation, then an hour of psychiatric help across the country runs around $200 on average, they estimated.

Most college students can’t afford those prices, not to mention several do not own cars. Not only is paying for the counseling an issue, but also, they do not have sufficient transportation methods. These students struggle with anxiety, depression, even suicidal thoughts, but they’re unable to get the help they need from their schools.

However, a lot of schools are seemingly doing the opposite.

“In June 2018, Florida Polytechnic University, a small public college outside of Tampa, laid off its only mental health counselor,” the PA Post reported.

Following this decision, a student committed suicide about a month later. In the same article, they wrote about how the Harrisburg Area Community College has stopped all individual and group counseling services for mental health concerns. They have opted to send all students off campus for all mental health concerns.

Suicide is a huge concern for people in this age group. Just one more reason it is vital to provide college students with the counseling services they need.

There are estimated to be about 1,100 suicides each year on college campuses, according to The JED Foundation. This number should be lower, and removing counseling services is not the way to decrease it. College campuses provide students with their meals, gyms and services for physical health, so why shouldn’t they also provide mental health care?

While it would be a simple solution to just hire more licensed therapists and psychiatrists, funding is often not readily available. However, there are several possible solutions.

A rising trend over the past couple years has been using services such as Teledoc, an online way to get health care without having to go to a doctor’s office. Services like this could be a possible solution to provide students with the mental health care they need. They can be connected to a mental health professional without having to leave their dorms.

Many schools provide students with affordable health insurance plans, this could be a service attached to their insurance. It could also be used by students not on the school’s plan for a small fee, which is still much cheaper than seeking out an external psychiatrist.

Another solution is for the school to allow the current counselors to provide students with things such as emotional support animal letters on a case by case basis. I would personally have continued living on campus if this option had been available to me. Counselors should also be allowed to send students to health services to receive the medication they need, rather than sending them off campus to do the exact same thing.

All in all, mental health issues on college campuses continue to grow at a rapid rate. Without improving the services available to students, the numbers will only grow. I found help for myself, but not all students are able to do that. Making students feel like they have somewhere to go should be at the top of any college’s list of priorities.

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