On national average, the number of college students who have reported difficulty functioning at school due to poor mental health is at an all time high, according to the National College Health Assessment. While it is unclear why there has been an increase in mental health concerns, some studies show that financial concerns, pressure to succeed and the ability to isolate oneself may be contributing factors.
Despite this increase in reported cases, the resources available at schools for mental health services have remained stagnant or decreased, and many U.S. schools have twice the recommended number of students per counselor. This means that there are not an adequate number of counselors to meet student need.
“College is a very stressful time,” said Director of Counseling Services, Tricia Hager. “It’s a time of learning who you are as an individual and growing quite a bit, so there are some natural growing pains as you figure out where you want to go, and that can lead to anxiety issues, depression can come from that, and just trying to sort that all through.”
William Jewell College does offer a variety of confidential counseling services for its students, and these services are already covered by student fees.
Perhaps the most important of these services is the short-term psychotherapy service, which can last from two to ten sessions, depending on the student.
The time it takes to get an appointment after seeking services varies, depending on a student’s flexibility and schedule.
“We try to work people in as quickly as we can and as our space allows, but definitely within a week-and-one-half or two weeks,” said Hager.
The College has two counselors on campus, Hager and therapist Kelli McKinney.
“When you look at nationally how college counseling centers operate, it matches with the ratio on average, how many are out there and operating,” said Hager.
Unlike many other schools, Jewell’s counseling center does not handle career services. That is handled by a separate office.
The center does offer outside referrals, both for students who have been seen in the center and for those who do not wish to seek services on campus. Students who are in need of outside resources and do not have full coverage can be connected with a local provider who works on a sliding scale and offers low fees or student discounts.
The center also provides outreach and education programs or workshops for various groups on campus, on topics such as anxiety, depression and sexual assault.
Trager also hopes that the center can hold more group support sessions in the future.
“We want to provide that,” said Hager. “Group sometimes allows for people to see that they’re not alone in their struggles, and it really builds a bond and community to go forward. You don’t always get that in individual therapy.”
Finally, the center offers one-time consultation services, available for students who need to work through a short-term problem, and they offer some mediation services, like with roommate disputes.
Hager, who has worked at Rockhurst University, The University of Kansas Medical Center and Truman Medical Center, said that problems among students were typical of other schools, but did note the unique support that Jewell offers its students.
“I do think Jewell is more supportive of getting students seeking help,” said Hager. “Students realize through the process that there’s more support than they initially realized.”
Students can make an appointment at the counseling center by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. More information can be found on the Jewell website.
Cover photo by Elizabeth Messina.