Around midterms season every semester, many students realize a hard truth: the Counseling Center closed to new clients weeks ago. Although the 45 free individual sessions guarantee is advertised to every student, only 15% of students are able to utilize the counseling center before it reaches its maximum capability.
The Counseling Center, though it makes an effort to serve all the student body, is not able to adequately accommodate students because of its rapidly increasing demand. The few students who do get an intake appointment often have to wait anywhere from a few weeks to a month before they are seen. Students are then met with a very limited availability for regular appointments that, more often than not, do not fit within the students’ class schedules. Even worse, many students who attempt to receive professional help are turned away, due to the Center’s short threshold of maximum capacity, which could be a deterrent to getting help in the future.
The Tower editorial board commends the university for making mental health a priority — the options available for students here are by far the best of D.C. universities, and over half of our board has at some point used some Counseling Center resources — but acknowledges that there are ways to improve the system so that students experiencing a mental health crisis are never turned away.
More money should be invested in the Counseling Center — comparable to the funding that the athletics department or the fitness center receives. This money should go towards hiring more full-time staff, perhaps the most pressing need, as there are only six full time senior staff employed there. These full-time staffers can assist with leading on-campus initiatives like depression screenings, stress management workshops, body image awareness, crisis intervention and support, and student leader training.
More flexibility for individual counseling, opening more sessions of group therapy, arranging off-campus services and transportation for students, and options for bi-weekly as well as weekly sessions would also help serve a greater student population. Resources can be offered to students in the early morning or later at night, and on the weekends, for students with unconventional schedules.
The Counseling Center website lists the following issues as commonly discussed in individual counseling sessions — it would be hard to find a single student on campus who hasn’t dealt with at least one of them: adjustment to CUA, academic concerns, anxiety, assertiveness issues, body image concerns, depression, difficulty choosing a major/career, discrimination, food preoccupation, illness or death of a loved one, loneliness, low self esteem, poor grades, relationship with family/friends/partner, self-improvement, sexual abuse, sexual assault/date rape, sexual identity issues, stress, study skills, suicidal thoughts, substance related concerns, test anxiety, trauma related symptoms.
Last year, the SGA Senate unanimously voted to increase counseling services in Resolution 019, calling for the university to “expedite the process to replace the full-time staff member in the Counseling Center who left before spring break, to resolve the lack of counseling services available to students for next semester, and to institute a crisis plan for times when there is a crisis on campus that affects a large group of the student body.” Georgetown University’s student government and an anonymous donation funded the “Georgetown Mental Health Fund,” which helps to offset the cost of off-campus mental health treatment. College students everywhere have started asking for mental health to become a higher priority on their campus — and it’s time for university administrations to respond.
Mental health has been steadily becoming a bigger player on the world’s stage, due to less social stigma and increased awareness of resources surrounding it. The university should reflect this increase in focus on mental health by proportionately funding the Counseling Center according to its demand.