Baylor’s Counseling Center has made some great improvements and grown over the years, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Mental health is a touchy subject that needs to be addressed, and mental health in college can carry even more of a stigma. Some students may brush off their anxiety or depression as just due to stress or being busy. Students, teachers and parents may make excuses, thinking, of course college is supposed to be stressful, but is it supposed to be this stressful?
Colleges across the country need to do a better job supporting students’ mental health needs and fighting the stigma. A 2015 survey from the American College Health Association found that while students report suffering from significant anxiety and depression, only 12 percent went to counseling. About 15 percent of students who commit suicide, the report found, got counseling on campus. The study also found that in 2010, 23.8 percent of college students had considered suicide, and in 2015, that number jumped to 32.9 percent in 2015.
It is time for radical work to be done to combat mental health issues on college campuses. Baylor can start by utilizing and expanding the counseling program to offer more long-term counseling options to students.
In 2016, Baylor announced a $5 million plan to expand the Title IX Office, Counseling Center and Department of Public Safety. As part of this expansion, the Counseling Center removed its strict 12 sessions per year limit. However, some students, including members of our editorial board, have found that while ending students’ treatment at 12 sessions may not be written policy anymore, students are sometimes encouraged to end their treatment at the counseling center and/or seek other forms of treatment after a certain period of time.
We understand that Baylor cannot offer long-term counseling to every student that needs it, but we do believe it can offer help to some students by expanding its long-term counseling treatment options.
In the cases where students do need more extensive help and are referred to counselors in Waco, there needs to be a much more systematic process to ensure students still have easy access to counseling. In addition to giving students the names of independent counselors, the center should offer supporting in navigating the insurance/payment process and helping students set up reliable transportation to sessions. Not all students have cars or the money to pay for outside counseling, but those students may need extensive treatment. Baylor should be able to help them, too.
The Counseling Center has greatly increased its staff in recent years, and the growth should continue. Baylor students have demonstrated a great need for counseling services; it has not been uncommon for students to have to wait two weeks to make an appointment to see a counselor, especially during busy times. One great improvement Baylor has made is allowing walk-in first-time appointments, ensuring that students don’t need to wait more than a day to see a counselor for an initial appointment. Baylor should continue working to decrease wait times by adding more staff.
No one should ever feel embarrassed for seeking professional help. In fact, even students who do not particularly struggle with mental health should be encouraged to receive counseling every so often to talk through stressful situations with a trained professional.
Baylor’s Counseling Center has made great strides, and we urge them to continue improving their services to meet students needs.