Are Colleges Providing the Mental Health Services They Promise? 10 College Students Discuss

With rising levels of anxiety and depression in young adults, it is important for colleges to provide the services students so desperately need. Many colleges boast to prospective students of large mental health centers, multiple counselors, and other services that can help their students succeed. The question is, do colleges live up to their lofty promises, and do students feel their mental needs are well addressed and taken care of? Here’s what many students had to say (please note this article contains material that may be triggering or upsetting).

1) Margaret DeLucia, Muhlenberg College

“Muhlenberg does have a counseling center, but I've never gone to it because I haven't heard of a single student having a good experience. I believe them to be extremely ineffective. The counselors aren't even licensed psychologists. I hear word of students feeling emotionally violated by counselors that tend to be rude and impatient. My friend's counselor once opened a session by saying "So I hear you have no friends..." which made her very uncomfortable. I suffer from severe depression and have been trying to find resources for myself around school. Every time I reach out to my insurance or my network from home, I just keep getting referred back to the counseling center here, which is useless.”

 

2) Anonymous, Muhlenberg College

“Muhlenberg has a counseling center that they allow anyone to use, but it’s rarely advertised. I only found out about it my sophomore year. However, because my mental health disabilities are documented, I often use the Office of Disabilities which is great, I can’t say enough good things about it. The counseling center was NOT for me. As someone with documented disabilities, I was looking for something that was relaxed, which is something the counseling center is not. They make you fill out this form and they assign a counselor to you. I have severe anxiety, depression, and PTSD---and I was not comfortable with someone being assigned to me. I also did not like that the center was not as available to me as often as I needed it. They had determined that I only needed sessions every other two weeks, which is not what I’m accustomed to. I am used to seeing a therapist every week because my disabilities are severe, and I felt like the counseling center was just kind of throwing me away. I love that anyone can go to the counseling center regardless of diagnosis, but for someone that needs something a little more because that’s what my disorders call for, I didn’t feel supported.”

 

3) Daria Davidoff, Studio School

“Since my school does not have a typical campus, like many universities, once a week a counselor is brought in, in which you can sign up for an appointment. This was never really elaborated on, but we do receive emails when there are slots open if anyone wants to sign up. I have not met anyone at my school that has actually gone to the counselor for many reasons, mainly being this person has never been introduced to the student body or discussed. I personally have not gone because I focused a lot while still at home on getting my anxiety in control, including therapy and medication. Since my school is small enough, I wish they would make this service more known to the community and open to whenever needed, not just limited to the certain hours the one day they happen to be here.”

4) Anonymous, Muhlenberg College

“Muhlenberg's mental health services are extremely limited, especially considering how expensive tuition is. We have a small number of counselors, who I've heard such bad things about that I haven't even tried going to find a counselor. Apparently, a psychiatrist comes once a week or so, which is ridiculous. My medications are all over the place and I could really use a quality and readily available therapist and psychiatrist to help me work out which medication works best for me. Personally, I didn't even know where the health center and counseling center were until this past week, which gives you a good idea of how inaccessible these places are. The regular health center also needs to be more aware of students on medications for mental health issues. This week, I went and informed the doctor about being on Zoloft, and he prescribed me a medication that is sometimes fatal if mixed with Zoloft. I took the prescribed medicine thinking I could trust a doctor to give me the right thing. I'm lucky that the only consequence for me was feeling loopy and high for two days straight.”

 

5) Shawna Mequet, former University of Northern Colorado student

“I currently go to massage school where mental, physical, and spiritual health are all deeply valued. We are taught to take care of all these aspects with ourselves so we can teach these to our clients. When I was going to a typical university my mental health and health status felt very underappreciated and not apart of my schooling process. It was one of the reasons why I left, I think mental health should be taken way more seriously than it is in all schools and nationwide because it accounts to who we are and how we learn. If we are sad or depressed that we have a hard time learning because our brain can’t focus, if we don’t focus on what’s making us sad then school isn’t our primary focus. Our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health are all connected and vital to who we are as people and humans on this crazy earth and it should all be accounted for in who we are.”

 

6) Anonymous, Muhlenberg College

“I was struggling with major depression and anxiety last year, which i have been diagnosed with for a long time now. My parents came to Muhlenberg to meet with me and the director of mental health services. I know that for myself, I am extremely uncomfortable with men, specifically when it comes to dealing with my mental health, but I sat through the meeting anyways. He basically told me and my family that depression was NOT a chemical imbalance in the brain and was actually caused by either me “having a negative outlook” or other external/internal factors that had nothing to do with my brain itself. His advice was pretty much just to pull myself up by my bootstraps and to try to be more positive and social. After he said this, I shut down and wouldn’t speak for the rest of the meeting, and my mother cut it short early. The next time I went alone, I demanded to see a female counselor, who was amazing and told me he shouldn’t have said that and that she would make a note of what he said. Eventually, I didn’t need counseling anymore, but my first experience made me so angry that I actually blocked it out and forgot about it until I saw your post (asking for submissions for this article)!”

7) Anonymous, Muhlenberg College

“My school has a counseling center. I have tried 4 different people at the center over 3 years and I have found that none of them have been helpful. In fact, in some cases made me worse and felt that they were in the right. When I asked one not to do something or even just stop using a word they told me that was too hard for them and that they are not willing to comply with my request. They cause more harm than good for me and while I want to try again I do not want to deal with another bad one.”

 

8) Anonymous, Muhlenberg College

“I've had mixed experiences with the counseling center here at Muhlenberg. When I was going through a particularly hard time and turned towards self harm, I was called down to ORS and I was forced to have a conversation over the phone with the head of the counseling center. I had never met this guy in real life, but he just kept telling me over and over again that I was trying to kill myself. I told him this wasn't the case at all but he told me I was "beyond a physiological state" and he couldn't trust what I was saying. He called my parents and said I was trying to kill myself and that they had to come up for the weekend to watch and make sure I didn't hurt myself or anyone else. This guy didn't know me, had never seen me, but he was making me feel like a delinquent. In reality I was scared and alone, and wanted help. I've had more positive experiences actually meeting with psychologists, but they do seem quick to try and limit your appointments from weekly to bi-weekly really fast.”

 

9) Anonymous

“At my old school, CAPS, or Counseling and Psychological Services, was available for any student during the semester for ten one-on-one sessions. There was also group sessions for those with similar trauma or issues (homesickness, ptsd, anxiety, loneliness...). I used the counseling services for one semester while balancing a full course load, a job, attempting a college transfer and some pretty gnarly flashbacks. I had a wonderful grad student who recorded my sessions to review with her teacher advisor. She was very effective and she, along with her supervisor, helped me find the diagnosis I needed to apply the proper coping mechanisms and understand myself better. She was an angel honestly, and I couldn’t recommend CAPS enough to students at this school. I transferred to my new school and it all went to shit. The counseling services there were abhorrent and seems to enjoy minimizing the students experiences. I went to every single counselor offered and none fit with me. I even had one tell me that my past trauma with men was blown up and overplayed and that I should get over it because ‘it wasn’t like I was really raped’. It was ineffective and bad.”

 

10) Anonymous, Muhlenberg College

“I have used the counseling center in the past, but I didn't have a good experience. The previous head of the counseling center, Anita Kelly, was a human tire fire. She forced me to sign a paper that said she would be able to disclose my sessions to my professors or else I wouldn't be able to make use of the counseling center. She also talked to my mother behind my back to find out things I 'wasn't telling her' and the first meeting after she did that, she opened the conversation with 'so I hear you have no friends'. She is thankfully gone because so many people had issues with her. The other thing that kind of bugged me was they said they weren't taking new patients for therapy and that I would need to go elsewhere, but they only provided rides to outside therapy for freshman. Luckily, I was able to find a ride, but for those without cars the cost of ubers/lyfts can build up fast. I've heard good things about the counseling center after Anita left, but I haven't been since because I'm happy with my off-campus help. However, the counseling center is still important because not everyone can afford off-campus help.”

 

Clearly, colleges need to do better in working with their student’s mental needs. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and it’s time it was treated as such. Students deserve to have their stories and experiences heard, validated, and believed. That way they can get the help they need and deserve.