Parents and students call for more accessible mental health resources on campus – The Daily Free Press
Nationwide, colleges and universities are facing a mental health problem crisis.
The Healthy Minds Network – a research organization that studies mental health in adolescents and young adults – found in a Survey 2021 that 40% of participating college students had been diagnosed with mental health issues. 13% had suicidal thoughts.
This “crisis” is not unique to college campuses, noted Sarah Lipson, assistant professor at the Boston University School of Public Health and co-lead researcher at the Healthy Minds Network. However, she said, students usually have unique resources on campus to deal with a larger phenomenon that primarily affects people in their age group.
“More students struggle with mental health issues than they actually will try to access services from their counseling centers,” Lipson said. “There are a lot of inequalities in terms of student access.”
BU has seen a “steady increase in demand” for its mental health services over the past decade, a demand that the Department of Behavioral Medicine at Student Health Services seeks to meet, its director, Carrie Landa, wrote. in an email.
“The pandemic, as well as the political climate in the United States over the past few years has definitely added to this demand,” Landa wrote. “Increased isolation and loneliness is certainly a common concern when students arrive.”
Landa wrote that Behavioral Medicine has hired more staff in recent years – in 2015 its staff numbered 20 and today it has 25. For the upcoming fall semester, the department has received provost approval to hire four additional therapists, two prescribers and a referral coordinator – bringing the projected staff size to 32, Landa added.
However, many members of the BU community said the University could provide more accessible mental health resources to its student body – among these, students, parents, student-run organizations and government representatives. student government.
“I think the biggest question we face is, ‘I don’t know where to go,’ or ‘I don’t know what resources are on offer,'” said Savannah Majarwitz, a senior at the College of Arts and Sciences and this Mental Health Committee Chair of the Year in Student Government.
Currently, Behavioral Medicine offers diagnosis, therapy, psychiatry, telephone counseling and a 24/7 mental health emergency hotline as listed on its website.
Students who book appointments through behavioral medicine — like College of General Studies sophomore Sage Winkler and CAS junior Zoe Shiman — said they were often referred to off-campus counseling after one or more meetings.
Winkler said it took her two weeks to get a consultation through SHS, and at her appointment she was immediately referred to off-campus counseling.
“They sent me referrals for therapists, but they never contacted me to make sure I was okay,” Winkler said.
All universities use a “brief treatment model,” Landa wrote, adding that students who need longer-term treatment are usually referred while those who can be treated briefly are kept in-house.
“In order to serve 33,000 students, we must always keep openings for students who need assessment and brief treatment,” Landa wrote. “Others who are referred often need longer-term treatment or treatment that goes beyond the services of a university counseling center.”
Landa added that SHS collects student satisfaction data across a feedback process where students can provide anonymous feedback to administrators. Landa wrote that the current SHS student satisfaction rate is over 85%.
Majarwitz said she thinks The Wellbeing Project – created by Behavioral Medicine in September 2019 to support student health and wellbeing – should not be the only major mental health resource at BU.
“I think students would like to see more behavioral medicine and more BU in terms of the services that could be offered,” Majarwitz said.
Alessandra Kellermann, mother of a BU alum who runs the BU Parents United Facebook group, said she believed the topic of suicide was considered taboo in mental health discussions, especially on campus.
Last month, a BU student committed suicide. Kellermann said she was contacted by parents and faculty after the suicide, adding that many “feel like it’s come to a point where there are no more excuses.”
Kellermann said she believes that in the future, BU should follow the guidelines of the JED Foundation – a non-profit organization that aims to prevent suicide among adolescents and young adults – on how to manage the mental health crises and tragedies in academic institutions.
JED’s “postvention plan” focuses on “campus-wide communication and coordination aimed at maintaining community stability and ensuring effective outreach during a crisis,” as described in its website.
Landa said that in addition to the support provided by SHS, mental health is a “campus-wide responsibility”.
“Some changes are a lot easier than others, but we’ve really made some big changes over the last decade,” Landa said. “I think continuing to reduce barriers to getting care, reducing stigma and getting students to recognize that there are many places to turn are all ways we can continue to improve ourselves.”
Lipson said on-campus counseling services should be unable to meet the increased demand for counseling and the prevalence of poor mental health symptoms among adolescents and young adults and urged the University to adopt a campus-wide “shared responsibility” model.
“We’re taking a really, really dangerous approach to putting all of this responsibility on counseling centers because the demand is going to keep growing,” Lipson said.
CAS sophomore Stacey Turabelidze, a board member of Let’s Talk About It — a student group that focuses on mental health support — said she thinks the administration could do more. to provide mental health resources on campus.
“Not all of this should fall into our hands and not all of it should be our responsibility,” Turabelidze said.
If you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text SHARE to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
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