The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
One of the first realizations that I had during my freshman year of college was that most of the services colleges use for promotion are not very unique or special. For example, having a writing center, a recreation center and a library with floors that get quieter as they go up isn’t particular to any college. But one of the biggest let-downs was hearing about how difficult it is to get a free counseling appointment, one that was promised and promoted to us as students. I have heard about people waiting months for an appointment, and when they do get one, some people have trouble finding a counselor who they feel comfortable with. To be honest, I’ve never even tried to schedule an appointment because I assume that it would be too much work for little pay-off.
There has been a lot of talk on my college campus this year about the need for more counselors. Also, students have discussed the importance of having counselors who are people of color and counselors who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community, with whom students can feel comfortable talking to about their lives. Having more counselors would absolutely be beneficial for students, but also I believe there are other services that schools should be providing for students. Between the pandemic and the rising numbers of students with anxiety (41.6% according to the American Psychological Association) and depression (36.4% according to the APA), it’s time for colleges to step up and provide for their students.
Here are three services that schools should provide to improve students’ mental health as well as free or reduced-price external resources that students can utilize now to find a therapist or promote their mental health.
Many students feel nervous about scheduling an appointment, don’t need or want weekly appointments or need immediate counseling help. Having drop-in hours allows students to get immediate help. College is a time of constant change and transition, and students may have days when they need an appointment as soon as possible. Some universities, such as University of California, Berkeley, already have this type of program. At Berkeley, there is a Zoom that students can join on Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or they can sign up ahead of time. If a counselor is already with a student, they will have the student come back in the next hour. If they choose, students can remain anonymous and not share their name during the appointment. This system could potentially lead to a pile-up of students trying to get an appointment, but it would allow for students to get an appointment at least within the week.
Survey of Students’ Health
The American College Health Association created the National College Health Assessment in 2000. This voluntary assessment is taken by students at the beginning of the year with questions that cover a wide variety of aspects of mental health. The assessment has been recently updated and includes questions about COVID-19 and its impact on students. This assessment is typically used to gather information on the student body; however, it could be used to the student’s benefit. For example, if the school looks at the results and finds that many students are having concerns about COVID-19, they could put together information sessions for students about how the school plans to handle the pandemic. Or, if a college finds that many students have anxiety, they could put together workshops for students to attend about how to handle their anxiety or stress. Even if only a small portion of students take this assessment, the results would likely still be a good sample of students at the school and could help the university get ahead on promoting good mental health on campus.
Counseling Workshops and SERIES
Other services that would allow more students to receive counseling are workshops and series. University of Florida offers students a variety of workshops, all on Zoom, from workshops that simply inform students about services available to multi-part workshops that help students with a range of things like improving their coping skills, building closer relationships and becoming more compassionate people. There is at least one workshop available everyday Monday through Friday. With these workshops, it is important to make sure that the counselors leading the session represent the students, whom they are working with. These workshops are a great way to reach many students at once and provide them with tools that will help them not only through college, but the rest of their lives.
We can only hope that someday our universities will provide a wide array of counseling services, but for now, we often have to take our mental health into our own hands. The good news is that there are online therapy options. For example, The Loveland Foundation Therapy Fund partners with a variety of counseling resources to provide four to 12 free therapy sessions for Black women and girls. The therapy fund sign up opens quarterly, and applicants can sign up to be notified when the new quarter begins. You can also find other mental health resources for and by people of color here.
Another online counseling service is Talk Space, which strives to provide affordable online therapy. You can take an assessment, select a therapist and begin messaging and communicating with your therapist at any time. Talk Space also provides services specifically for members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
The American Psychoanalytic Association, too, has a variety of institutions that offer reduced-price therapy.
Here in St. Louis, The Schiele Center provides in-person and tele-health appointments.
Lastly, there are a variety of free apps that can help you calm down or manage stress, such as What’s Up, which provides techniques to track thoughts, overcome negative feelings and calm down, MindShift, which helps manage anxiety and Happify, which is targeted to promote positive feelings.
College is the time when people learn to be adults, and it can be difficult. Universities offer students many resources to help launch them into adulthood, and mental health resources should be no different.