Delay for On-Campus Psychological Help Too Long to Ignore

    STUDENT CENTERS AND HEALTH — Feeling distressed, students?
    If so, then you can call Psychological and Counseling Services to make an
    appointment — and wait a few weeks to get professional help — or, according to
    the mental health plan proposed by Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Penny
    Rue, students can call an academic adviser, then wait a few weeks to get
    un-professional help before calling to make an appointment at P&CS. If the
    latter option doesn’t seem fit, a student can hope that a UCSD faculty member
    will notice the student in distress and confront him or her about it, then make
    an appointment for the student to see a psychologist.

    Clearly, the best solution for the stressed-out student here
    is to just make an appointment at P&CS. But, even this option has its
    flaws; the student would have to wait a few weeks before being able to speak
    with a professional — a time that may be crucial to the student’s mental
    health.

    In order to close this incubational gap that forces students
    to wait, All-Campus Senator Meaghan Clair proposed to Rue that a walk-in
    psychologist for the campus be hired. Though the vice chancellor considered
    this option, she brought up a legitimate concern: Would the psychologist’s
    value be maximized?

    Worthy concern, but it seems that having an on-hand
    psychologist may serve best for students’ mental health for many reasons.

    It’s true that a lack of students seeking regular help from
    the walk-in psychologist would create efficiency problems for the already
    tight-budgeted P&CS.

    The school would be paying top dollar for a psychologist
    that wouldn’t necessarily be doing much work. But with weeklong waits for such
    important care, a walk-in service is clearly a worthy investment. What is more
    important than mental health?

    Certainly not cushioning already-massive administrative
    salaries, though university officials are happy to pump tons of funding in that
    direction.

    According to a survey conducted by the American College
    Health Association in 2006, approximately 92 percent of university students
    felt overwhelmed at one time or another. Out of the 92 percent, 44 percent, or
    about half the students, indicated they had once felt extremely depressed —
    enough for them to have trouble functioning — 9.3 percent had seriously
    considered suicide and about 1.3 percent had actually attempted it.

    Apply these statistics to UCSD’s undergraduate population
    and about 9,000 students could use help, 2,000 should definitely seek help and
    300 are in desperate need of fast help. Additionally, according to Rue, 8
    percent — about 1,800 enrolled students — have used P&CS.

    Looks like a walk-in psychologist would have droves of
    students to work with.

    Unfortunately, it’s likely that not all these students will
    seek the help they may need. But a walk-in psychologist would help soothe the
    already overwhelmed professionals here at UCSD, who are swamped with more
    patients than they can handle. If students don’t use the walk-in service for
    immediate counseling the new psychologist can take some appointments that have
    been promised at a later date. In this way a walk-in psychologist can surely be
    most efficiently used.

    It’s no wonder that P&CS is overwhelmed; 1,600 students
    is a lot for a handful of professionals to handle. Appointments would be
    necessary to manage the influx of students needing help. But forcing students
    to wait weeks before seeing a counselor does them more harm then good.

    Beyond discussion of a walk-in service, Rue expressed her
    own plans to better the mental health system to the council. She said UCSD students
    have a 3.5-percent higher likelihood of being diagnosed with anxiety disorders
    than students nationwide. Rue wants to combat anxiety by promoting the wellness
    center — a P&CS resource that encourages physical and emotional well-being
    and provides groups, workshops, outreach and help with relaxation and
    stress-management techniques.

    Additionally, Rue is planning to train student advisers and
    faculty members to recognize and address distress from students early on, which
    will allow psychologists to handle more extreme cases.

    These ideas are all valid; the wellness center in an
    excellent resource and a staff trained to help overwhelmed students is
    certainly ideal. But even with these improvements students will still need —
    and have to wait far too long for — professional help.

    After all, if a student is distressed enough to actually
    seek help or be noticed by a faculty member, chances are the student is
    sincerely in need of professional help. Talking regularly with friendly student
    adviser and spending time at wellness centers are good preventative measures,
    but they cannot help students who have never had time or the confidence to
    actually take these steps. If someone needs immediate professional help, then
    wellness centers or counseling will not be able to do much.

    Rue has great ideas, and she’s taking a vital step forward
    to bring students a higher quality of psychological help, but UCSD needs to
    stop sugarcoating the problem. Students need more efficient help, and the
    university should invest in the campus’ well-being and hire professionals to
    give immediate attention to students in need.

    It is ridiculous that distressed students have to wait
    weeks, if not months, to get professional attention. Yes, implementing a
    walk-in psychologist may be costly, but the expense is surely worth it.

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