I sat in the Harley Hall Multi-Purpose Room for Shippensburg University’s President’s Hour Oct. 7. This is an opportunity for students to share their feedback with the university president and her executive management team.
One topic that continues to be asked at every President’s Hour since I started attending in fall 2019, is what the university is doing to reduce backlogs at the Counseling Center, as well as what it is doing to expand operations.
This question of course was brought up again at this meeting and President Laurie Carter was quick to respond that the university did hire “two more counselors last year.” A few different students submitted comments regarding backlogs in the Counseling Center again this year, to which Carter responded that this was the first that she had heard of it being a problem this year.
The Counseling Center has continued to have long wait times since I started attending SU in fall 2019. From my own experience, I have had to wait two to three weeks between counseling appointments on a semi-regular basis due to my counselor having so many students in such a short-time frame.
I have even had a Counseling Center staff member, who asked to remain anonymous, say that “they have dealt with an overwhelming surge in students.”
Similarly, one of my friends waited three weeks for an initial appointment after contacting the Counseling Center. I work in Residence Life, and we are told to direct students to the center to assist with depression, anxiety and other non-emergency, yet largely debilitating, mental health challenges. In talking with residents, they ask why they have to wait so long just to get an appointment. I have the same question to ask our university.
In bringing this up with Carter and SU’s executive management team, Carter reiterated hiring counselors last year and began to talk about the mental health implications of “not turning your camera on in class.”
No commitment was made nor were comments made to address the pressing matter and student’s concerns were blatantly discredited by Carter’s remarks. Carter acknowledged we were all in a pandemic and we are all impacted; however, that doesn’t mean that the Counseling Center problems should not be addressed. Not only was expanding counseling services essential before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but it is more critical now than ever.
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that two in five Americans are now actively struggling with a mental health disorder, disproportionately by age group. Two earlier studies by CDC researchers had found a substantial increase in anxiety disorder and depressive disorder symptoms in the United States during April through June compared with the same time frame in 2019. SU needs to continue to expand operations in the Counseling Center to address not only a normal demand, but an increased demand for counseling services as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.