The need for mental health resources is far outpacing the availability, making things even more strained for students looking to receive care. On campuses across the country, students are subjected to increasingly long wait times. "I wouldn't have continued seeking help if I didn't already know the system," said Madison Hill, a student at Chapman University about her experience looking for a therapist through her school's counseling center. In an article with the LA Times, Hill went on to explain that waiting for weeks to receive therapy could discourage some from seeking help at all.
For those students that are lucky enough to actually see a therapist through their university, the outcome often isn't worth the wait. With such high demand and so few therapists, colleges are forced to ration out their available counselors. The benchmark set by organizations that provide accreditation for counseling centers is providing one therapist for every 250 students. Most educational institutions fail to reach the recommended amount and would have to double their current staff to accommodate that need, according to the LA Times. In the case of Cal State Fullerton, this means only allotting students 10 sessions each academic year.
It’s clear that universities and colleges need to supplement their lack of personnel, but the question of how isn’t an easy one to answer. At California State University, Long Beach, students didn’t have many avenues to turn to. In an article with EdSource, Presley Dalman, an alumnus of CSU, Long Beach, recounts her experience responding to an emotionally distressed friend while attending the university. Not knowing how to resolve the situation, Presley was forced to act against her better judgment and call the police, a decision that actually worsened the situation.
In an attempt to overhaul the campus’ mental health infrastructure, Beth Lesen, VP of student affairs at CSU, Long Beach, created a plan to address the needs of the students. Among Long Beach students alone, 86% of students reported moderate or high stress in the last 12 months, according to the 2021 National College Health Assessment. Fortunately for Lesen, the changes come at a time when governmental funding for mental health programs is rising to meet the growing need. President Biden has announced plans to provide millions of dollars (on top of the funding provided by the CARES Act) to improve mental health resources in schools and many other organizations.
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