By TAYLOR MOONEY
Mental health issues on college campuses across the country have drastically increased over the past five years. For that reason, the University of Mary Washington needs to allocate more resources toward on-campus mental health services.
The transition from high school to college is an extremely stressful and anxiety-provoking time. For the majority of people, it is the first time they are away from home. Not to mention, the stress of new relationships, social life, and the tougher academic course work. That is why having good mental health is crucial for every student’s success.
Unfortunately, mental health issues on college campuses are skyrocketing. According to the American Psychological Association, in 2016, 52.7 percent of college students reported feeling that things were hopeless, and 39.1 percent reported feeling so depressed that it was hard for them to function at times. This was a dramatic increase from 2013, where only 44 percent of students reported struggling with their mental health.
These statistics translate to the UMW campus as well. “Each year we end up seeing anywhere from about 15-20 percent of the student body roughly,” said Dr. Tevya Zukor, director of the on-campus counseling center at UMW, the Talley Center. “What we know is that the national trends of collegiate mental health are there tends to be an increase just about every single year of anywhere from about 10-20% in demand. We track that; we see that here, but we also see that nationally.”
Many students who have attended the Talley Center, however, have not had an accommodating experience. Senior biology major Gabriella Carillo stated that after her initial appointment, she didn’t end up getting an appointment to see anybody for three weeks. It was this time between appointments that only seemed to worsen her condition.
“They can’t see you weekly, you have to wait two weeks to be seen, and I was only being seen about 45 minutes every two weeks.” During the time between appointments, she stated that, “I was having episodes of really high anxiety, and so I wanted to be able to go in and say hey, I really need to talk to someone, can you give me some advice on what to do to feel a little bit better, but it was really difficult to get that done.”
One factor that would help alleviate this problem is adding more staff to the Talley Center.
“If anyone ever says, would you like more staff, could you see more people with more staff, yes, I think that would be phenomenal. But at the same time, I am deeply appreciative of this University and their support of mental health,” said Zukor. “Do I know of any university across the country who is adding new clinicians at the same rate the demand is increasing? I don’t.”
While no students are ever turned away from the Talley Center, only students with the most pressing needs, such as thoughts of suicide are prioritized. “About 20% of the students that we end up seeing every day end up coming in on a crisis or walk-in basis, meaning that their appointment didn’t exist at the beginning of the day,” said Zukor. “We see those people always the same day.”
For students on campus, knowing that there is a place for them to go right away if they are having a crisis is comforting and can be extremely beneficial. However, for students who are having issues that are considered non-critical, like anxiety attacks, the spaced scheduling is creating more problems rather than solving them.
Carillo is skeptical of how the severity of each student’s crises is determined by the center. “How is my situation not as bad as somebody else’s? Is it because I’m not suicidal, is it because I’m not suffering from depression, is it just because I have anxiety and not something else?” said Carillo.
Carillo is not the only student who is experiencing these feelings. One anonymous sophomore communications major, stated “I think they [Talley Center] should have more options for different types of appointments. They would ask me if I was in crisis or I was depressed but some people aren’t either and just want someone to talk to and help them through things.”
Overall, the Talley Center provides the best care they are capable of to all the students who seek out their services. At the same time, it is almost impossible for them to adequately meet the needs of every student. As mental health issues are becoming more and more prevalent, the number of resources must increase to fulfill this need as well.
Having both a healthy emotional and mental state is paramount to overall success in college, and beyond that, life. Every student deserves the opportunity to succeed and be the best they can be. Any member of the UMW community who is struggling with their mental health deserves to be provided with as many resources they need in order to achieve success, and that begins by hiring more staff.