Mental health programs need more support
Although the school has an efficient suicide prevention program, the Student Health Services needs more counselors to help students struggling with depression.
On Nov. 9, after a student nearly attempted to commit suicide on campus, a collective sigh of dismissal was released: He didn’t jump. Problem solved.
But the issue remains that this student may have not received the preemptive support that could have prevented him from teetering on the ledge of the seventh-floor of the Computer Science building.
We must not forget that the support students require goes beyond the academic. It is necessary to allocate funds and resources to help students before suicide becomes an option.
The most needed forms of support within the school are to hire more salaried counselors and to more strongly encourage a student community.
Currently, the majority of UVU’s depression support is found in the counseling center, through the one-person suicide prevention and awareness program, and a few outreach services through the wellness center.
The counseling center has an average waiting period of two weeks before they can schedule any student’s appointment. In an emergency, one can speak to a counselor in minutes. This service is, however, limited, as the counseling center can only ensure that one counselor is free at any given time.
“Take care of yourselves. I think that students aren’t sleeping enough, they’re not eating right, they’re not exercising. And I think that often times those things will help.”
Jennifer Brown, resident psychologist at the counseling center, estimated that they get two to five of these emergency appointments each week.
Compared to the University of Utah, a school that we nearly match in student population but are far behind in funding, our counseling services are incredibly sparse. According to Brown, the U not only has a counseling center, but certified counselors working in its women’s and multicultural centers. They also have a grief-counseling program run by the school of nursing.
Comparatively, all of our mental health counselors work in one office, in a corner of the second floor of the Student Center.
JC Graham, a licensed clinical social worker, is the coordinator for the Suicide Prevention and Awareness program and teaches students and employees at the school how to recognize warning signs among peers.
Graham, however, has the sole responsibility of suicide prevention at the university.
“What JC does in the community and what she does on campus is phenomenal, and if she were five people, she could reach more,” Brown said.
Often, depression can be prevented when students, freshly plucked from the community of their youth, can find a locum tenens “family” among other students. This is why student groups must also be taken seriously as a necessary support to mental health.
Take, for example, the on-campus LDS Institute. The Institute has no specific services to support students battling depression, but it provides a safe community for LDS students to join. Sources at the Institute mentioned that within this community, there are leaders and students that would certainly notice and care about peers showing signs of depression.
These sources recommended that students facing serious mental or emotional problems seek the advice of their bishop or make an appointment at the student wellness center.
The example of the institute highlights an important part of depression and suicide prevention: giving students a sense of community.
Brown emphasized that when recognized early, depression can sometimes be prevented relatively simply.
“Take care of yourselves,” she said. “I think that students aren’t sleeping enough, they’re not eating right, they’re not exercising. And I think that often times those things will help.
“When you’ve been down for two weeks and you can’t get motivated to get out of bed and can’t get motivated to get your homework done … and you usually don’t have a problem with that, make an appointment. Don’t let it get worse than that.”
Richard Portwood, student body president, said, “Depression isn’t something that you should be embarrassed about. It is very common. We have the resources available to help you and assure you are successful as a student here.”
Currently, the counseling center and suicide prevention program are shouldering almost more that they can bear. In the midst of the university’s current growth frenzy, we must not forget to direct funding toward our mental health services before those needing help slip through the cracks.
To ask student government to ensure that more student fees are directed toward mental health services, e-mail StudentGovernment@uvu.edu
To make an appointment with the counseling center, call 801-836-8876 or go to SC 221.
If you are at risk for suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).