Efforts by the Health Center and specifically Psychological Counseling Services (PCS) to reach out to students have been ambitious and largely successful. Having to shorten counseling sessions is an inconvenient, but hopefully temporary side effect of PCS’s increased visibility.
The secluded brick building at the end of Hoxsey St. no longer serves as a metaphor for the tucked-away, hush-hush quality of the services it offers. Thanks to projects like the recent Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Depression Awareness Week last October and the aggressively quirky “Box for your Box” campaign last May aimed at spotlighting Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the stigma of mental and physical health issues is ebbing away.
Although no one can say what the exact reasons are for the recent increase in student counseling inquiries, PCS’s judgment calls and outreach campaigns have certainly played a part. Their commitment to not resorting to waiting lists for meetings is one commendable indication of their compassion for students’ needs. The continuing availability of immediate emergency counseling also demonstrates an acute awareness of the necessity for the accessibility of mental health help.
Their campaigns, as well, have gone beyond simply making noise about mental health issues: these initiatives have created accessible avenues to ask and answer questions, whether it was having an open discussion where students could understand what counseling can do, or holding a panel discussion on a documentary about eating disorders. Education and the dispelling of myths about these hot-button issues helps remove their taboo and makes them safe issues to bring up in the critical dialogues already held formally and informally all over our campus.
If, after PCS finishes its evaluation of the recent rise in number of student visitations, it is clear that this amount of student mental health need is not sustainable with the current amount of staff, the College should follow the behavior it has historically practiced: supporting PCS with the resources and staffing it requests. PCS and the Health Center represent a crucial element of campus life, and the College’s continued and increased financial and administrative support need to be top priorities.