Student’s complain about lack of Mental Health Services on campus, Administration thinks services are adequate

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In 2011, DePauw first–year Marshall Matthew committed suicide. His death was the last suicide to rock the university. It prompted initiatives to change the campus stigma of mental health and make receiving treatment easier for students. It’s been five years since Matthew’s death, and some students say it is time for DePauw's Wellness and the counseling center to step up their program again. 

During fall semester of this academic year, counseling services at DePauw experienced a 30.5 percent increase in first-time appointments from fall of 2014, according to director of counseling services at DePauw Dr. Julie d’Argent. D’Argent stated that psychiatric evaluations have increased 68.2 percent. D’Argent also said that the number of mental health emergencies (life threatening situations, including self-harm threats) has increased on DePauw’s campus by 171.4 percent within the last year.

Several students have complained about not receiving the care they need due to extremely long wait times for appointments, ranging from two to four weeks. 

“The only support that I get on DePauw’s campus is from my 19 year-old friends and not from the administration,” said a DePauw sophomore, who wishes to remain anonymous. This student has been battling severe depression and is currently on medical leave for spring semester. She is working on transferring from DePauw because she believes that it is not a healthy environment for her to be in.

“I applied to DePauw because I was so sure in the fact that it would be a proactive step in my health,” said the student, who only applied to DePauw. During the fall semester, the student experienced a moment of crisis and reached out to campus resources, including the counseling center. She said that it took four weeks before she was able to meet with a counselor and, instead, was instructed via email to utilize emergency services. 

Sophomore Gage Mascoe had a similar experience, waiting two weeks for his first appointment and over a month for his follow-up meeting. 

“Overall it wasn’t bad, but not worth the two month wait for me,” Mascoe said. 

D’Argent and Vice President of Student Life Christopher Wells claim that the long wait times are attributed to students booking appointments but not showing up. This academic year, there has been a 42.9 percent increase in no-shows for first appointments.

“A lot of students make appointments and then they don’t come, which prevents other students from getting those appointments,” d’Argent said. “I’m not sure why they aren’t coming."

The anonymous student said that students who are seriously struggling with mental health issues should not be punished for missing appointments. 

“It’s not your fault because it’s your mental health speaking for you,” the student said. “You aren’t supposed to know everything about your mental health at 20 years old.” 

The most common forms of mental illness that the counseling center sees are forms of anxiety and depression, but the center also helps students with transitioning in and out of college, interpersonal issues, substance abuse, body image and post-traumatic stress.

According to d’Argent, this trend of students seeking aid for mental health is not specific to DePauw. She said universities across the country are dealing with similar situations. 

“I think college is becoming more stressful,” d’Argent said. “I would like to think that the stigma is also reducing. If the stigma is reducing, then people are more likely to seek help.”

DePauw's counseling website says that the center offers mental health screenings and resources to help students at all times, while also providing a 24-hour contact in case of emergency. The center has also been working on their outreach programs; they increased the number of outreach hours to 99 hours in fall of 2015 from 23 hours in fall of 2014.

“We have a sense of increased need,” Wells said. “You can always do more. The question is, how do you balance the university’s needs to provide on multiple fronts?”

DePauw has four full time counselors, including a staff psychologist and two clinical counselors in addition to d’Argent. Excluding d’Argent, the three other counselors either refused to comment for this story or did not reply to the request to interview.

The center also employs three doctoral interns and a psychiatrist who visits campus two times a month to meet with students. 

“I think we are adequately staffed right now,” Wells said. 

Even if staffing is adequate to administration standards, students complain that they are not receiving the support and counseling they need in a timely manner. 

“When you finally get this courage to go in and make an appointment and they tell you ‘okay, come back in four weeks,’ in four weeks, you aren’t going to go back,” the anonymous student said. “For these three or four weeks, you are completely by yourself and you lose hope, and when someone is finally willing to fight with you, you’re too tired.”