COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - The University of Missouri’s Counseling Center is seeing a sharp increase in students seeking mental health services - 35 percent more in the last five weeks compared to last year’s first five weeks of fall semester of last year, center director David Wallace recently told the Board of Curators.
The demand is leading to delays in getting appointments at the center, which has 12 full-time and four part-time professional staff, The Columbia Missourian reported (https://bit.ly/1OnVHtl ).
“We’ve had kind of a rush this fall, frankly, that’s a little bit concerning,” Wallace said.
Stress, anxiety, depression, grief and academic concerns are the top reasons students seek counseling, Wallace said. The center tries to determine a treatment plan for each student, who attends an average of six sessions.
“People come in here maybe quite depressed, maybe they’re really struggling with anxiety, but that’s not something just in isolation. It has a context, and that context is life,” Wallace said.
If necessary, students who are considered in danger of harming themselves or others are referred for hospitalization. The number of students hospitalized has varied from between eight to 15 each year in recent years.
“Suicidal thoughts are not that rare,” Wallace said, estimating that 16 to 17 percent of students had suicidal thoughts.
This year, students are sometimes waiting for an appointment for weeks, Wallace said.
Jessica Semler, who has worked at the center for five years, said she has an average of five hours of client contact per day, which includes groups and individuals.
“We might have to take on a few more clients,” Semler said. “But I think as a system we’re willing to do what we need to do to make sure they get seen.”
Wallace said it is important for everyone to help as anxiety disorders and demands for counseling increase. That makes mental health resources an integral part of a college campus, Semler and Wallace both said.
“If we’re really invested in our students we need to be taking care of the whole person, not just physical, academic and career needs but their mental health needs as well.” Semler said. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me to not look at them as whole people who need support in a lot of different ways.”
Information from: Columbia Missourian, https://www.columbiamissourian.com
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