Amidst student concerns, health services says staffing not an issue


By Kiki Wright
Special to The Beacon

As the last few weeks of school approach, many students are feeling the pressure of final projects and exams and mental health has taken a big toll.

Many students have noticed a major change in the mood around campus over the last few weeks, as the most stressful time of the semester hits. There have been many cases of class sizes suddenly shrinking and dorm rooms that had been full of personal items now are left barren.

A surprisingly large number of students have either decided to drop out or are taking a semester off once finals end. “I want to stay,” one student said about their decision not to return to MCLA this spring.  “If not for my mental health, I would have.”

A study done by the American Psychological Association found that over 40 percent of college students struggle with anxiety, followed closely by depression which covers over 35 percent of students. These statistics cover almost half of the population, sometimes more, depending on how they overlap, of college campuses.

With a little less than two thousand undergraduate students and roughly half of the MCLA campus dealing with anxiety and depression, there are not nearly enough resources to help each student who needs it.

“The school needs to do better with their thoughts on mental illness,” another student said. “There are not enough therapists, too many kids are dropping out because of it and the school is not doing anything.”

Lots of other students on campus have similar concerns, worrying that while the school is making an effort, there are not enough therapists to see all the students who need to be seen on campus while also seeing them as often as each student needs.

With such a prevalent problem on campus, what is MCLA doing to handle this issue? The school’s Counseling Services department offers free and confidential sessions for all students who are enrolled at MCLA. “She wanted to see me every week but she was too overbooked and could only see me once every two weeks,” said one student who was seeing a therapist.

“We are actually an extremely well-staffed college counseling center,” Heidi Riello, director of MCLA Counselling Services, said. She also mentioned that the International Association of Counseling Services recommends one counselor per fifteen hundred students and MCLA has four counselors for its thirteen hundred students. Riello also commented that “adding staff is not the issue.”

Counseling Services does not plan to expand the number of therapists on campus, though they are planning on adding a nurse practitioner for three hours a week to help with the high demand.

Counseling Services does its best to see to every student who comes in through the door. However, there are only four counselors available to see and only one psychiatrist that is there once a week and only sees students for very short periods of time.

The Counseling Services Center is located on the second floor of the Student Wellness Center and offices are open every weekday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:45 p.m.