The Counseling Center is working to improve the quality of services provided to students, faculty, and staff members. From August to September, the center has seen 489 students, which is about a five percent increase from this time last year. Terence K. Lightning Jr., DN File
Counseling Center working to improve wait time, quality of service
“It was decent.” Those three words were used to describe Kaleigh Whitehill’s experience with the Counseling Center last year.
Since eighth grade, the sophomore telecommunications major has struggled with her mental health. She has depression and anxiety and struggles with anorexia. Having never figured out how to cope with her illnesses, coming to college was a difficult transition.
“I wasn't prepared for it as I thought,” Whitehall said. “After seeing two counselors at the Counseling Center, they both essentially told me that they didn't feel they could offer me the level of help I needed and that I was so set in my ways and that to try to change them while I was going through even more changes was pointless because it would only add more stress.”
Sources provided by the Counseling Center include:
- WellTrack, an online/mobile self-help program specifically designed for help with stress, anxiety and depression.
- A Relaxation & Resource Room that houses two massage chairs to use free of charge with no appointment necessary, books and information covering a wide variety of mental health issues.
- Self-Help online screenings where students can go for a variety of mental health issues including: alcohol use disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder and substance use.
- PsychTalk Newsletter
Even though the center offered Whitehall resources outside of Ball State to help her “long-term issues,” she said she felt like it wasn’t enough for a student who lived on campus with a busy schedule and no car.
“The Counseling Center is good if you have a small problem you need to get over, but if you have real mental health issues, I don't recommend it,” she said.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults has a diagnosable mental illness.
Fifty percent of college students have been so anxious that they struggled in school, and in 2013, 36.4 percent of college students said they experienced depression, according to a survey by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors. Depression is also the No. 1 reason students drop out of school.
This semester, the Counseling Center is working to combat the issues that students like Whitehall faced by improving the quality of services provided to the hundreds of students, faculty and staff members that use the center.
Since the start of school, from August to September, the center has seen 489 students, which is about a five percent increase from this time last year.
On average, students were offered an appointment time within seven days of when they called, said Bill Betts, director of counseling and health services.
This is a major improvement from last year, when students were not able to schedule an appointment until a month out due to understaffing of the center and high demand of services from students.
“It is clear that there has been a lot of concern about resources available for students, especially around counseling,” said Betts, who started as director in February. “This is a topic that people at Ball State really care about.”
The understaffed center was such an issue amongst the Ball State community that former Student Trustee, Dustin Meeks spoke up to address the problem to the Board of Trustees at a previous meeting this summer.
“It is sort of common knowledge on campus amongst the students that the Ball State Counseling Center has a staff that is maxed in the services that they can provide and we have a very heavy demand for those services,” Meeks said in an interview with NewsLink Indiana.
“I spoke with Dr. Kay Bales (vice president for student affairs and enrollment services) … I asked a lot of in-depth questions about the services that the Counseling Center provides and what the real truth was about how many people we have and how many people we needed.”
Meeks said Bales was “very enthusiastic” about the idea of providing more funds to the Counseling Center. As a result, in the July meeting, the Board of Trustees approved $140,000 for the center to use to hire two new additional counselors.
Currently, the center staffs nine full-time therapists who students can make appointments with, in addition to three full-time doctoral interns and 13 part-time graduate students. The center is still not fully staffed though, and is in the process of hiring for three other positions.
“We are very grateful for all of the advocacy that has been done by them on our behalf,” Betts said. “We’ve gotten more staff, we are getting students in a lot quicker than we have in the past and I think that’s really great.”
In addition to bringing in new staff, the treatment agency is also working on providing the Ball State community with more programs and resources focused around promoting positive health.
“Not only are we focused on providing folks with the resources for therapy, but we do a lot of prevention work,” Betts said.
The Counseling Center along with the Health Center, Office of Victim Services and Office of Health Alcohol and Drug Education provide health and wellness outreach programs that reached more than 34,000 people last year, according to bsu.edu.
Jagdish Khubchandani, an associate professor of health science in the Department of Nutrition and Health Science said he has already noticed “big changes compared to last year” at the Counseling Center and through campus with awareness on mental health. But Khubchandani said more could be done, specifically with staff.
Khubchandani said he believes staff members need to go through orientation training to help professors identify, monitor and help students who are struggling with their mental health.
“We need to stop just saying, ‘Oh, go to the Counseling Center,’” he said. “We have no dialogue. … I think professors are poorly trained. They are not sensitized to the issue.
“I wonder sometimes if we had a student that just collapsed in the classroom, what kind of training do I have? Nothing.”
While Khubchandani says this is a national issue across college campuses, he believes in order for Ball State to fully be “student friendly and focused,” faculty must be properly trained.
Emma Brauer, sophomore public history major, said she feels there is a disconnect between students and faculty when it comes to mental health awareness. Brauer has experienced depression several times while in school.
“I don't think faculty can relate to the mental health of college students because it's a different time,” Brauer said. “Students live on and off campus in chaos. There is absolutely no way that faculty and staff can relate, therefore, [they] can’t preach what is best for students to do to create positivity for mental health, therefore, cannot create proper awareness.
“Only an eyewitness can create the proper awareness and that's people who have been through it the way we have, and still are.”
Betts said the Counseling Center does offers training for faculty, even though it’s not mandatory. If a staff member or department contacts the center, they will provide the resources needed through lectures and workshops.
"More may be going on as far as folks see,” Betts said. "We get a fair number of referrals and I think that faculty are very aware … one of the neat things about Ball State is that faculty really do care and will go out of their way to help students.”
In addition, Betts said the center will continue to monitor wait times, the amount of students seeking counseling and resources by collecting and tracking data metrics. Based on these numbers, students might see more changes coming to the center.
"We are always doing things to improve the health and mental health of students on campus — that is our number one focus," Betts said. "We are going to use all of our resources to make sure students get what they need."
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