November 5, 2015

Student crises overwhelm Counseling Center

The Louisville Cardinal News

Need therapy? Look elsewhere. U of L’s Counseling Center is booked, leaving students with wait times of up to two months to see a counselor. The Cardinal has found that 75 students needs were unmet because a flood of appointment requests since mid-October.

“I called the counseling center when my depression and anxiety started to get really bad,” said one student, who wished to remain anonymous. “When I called again to make an appointment, I was told there was a two-month wait.

“When your depression is taking over your life and you can’t complete your daily tasks, it’s not really practical to wait that long for an appointment.” The student found counseling elsewhere.

Counseling Center Director Aesha Tyler, Psy. D, confirmed the wait list, saying no student has been waiting more than 17 days. She said the center has been swamped with 60 more appointment requests than this time last year.

“Our current staff to student ratio is higher than we would like,” Tyler said. “This is not always an easy fix, due to budget constraints, so we do what we can to provide the best care to our students.”

The center has four psychologists and three counselors on staff. On Oct. 2, Tyler said they were looking to hire another psychologist and counselor. As of today, they have not been hired but are on the on-campus interview stage.

Tyler said, “It is a national trend that university and college counseling centers are experiencing very high demand.”

“The mission of the Counseling Center is to provide services and programs that support the psychological well-being, holistic development and retention of University of Louisville students,” the center’s website reads. U of L administration and faculty have been trying to improve student retention. Mental health is a piece of the retention puzzle.

The wait list situation comes at a bad time for U of L students. In an unofficial, online survey, the Cardinal found 86 percent of student respondents know someone at U of L with depression. All knew someone with anxiety.

Eight of 10 said the average U of L student is more anxious than the general population, frequently citing various forms of stress. More than a third of the respondents said they are always stressed.

According to Tyler, a third of counseling center clients experience anxiety and 16 percent experience depression. Psychology professor Rich Lewine says the two frequently coexist.

Almost half of our survey responses rated their own mental health condition as “fair,” the second lowest option available.

According to Kathy Pendleton, Ph. D, in the dean of students office, U of L processes 25 to 30 applications for medical withdrawal yearly. She said half are for mental health reasons. The Cardinal’s source withdrew for mental health reasons in September.

Since beginning the waitlist, Tyler said 22 students have been taken off of the list and scheduled for intakes.

Tyler cited more general acceptance of mental health issues as one reason for the increase in appointment requests.

“Young adults are also at a vulnerable developmental stage where a lot of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia first become evident,” said Sandra Robertson, psychiatric nurse practitioner at Campus Health. “For some students the additional stressors of college, being away from home, poor sleep habits, etc. can trigger a depressive episode or worsen anxiety that might already have been present.”

The Counseling Center recently moved from next to the SAC to Cardinal Station near the baseball stadium. The new location boasts a large amount of parking spaces and more office space, but some students have complained about the inconvenience of the new location.

“We have a counseling center, but it’s no longer in a convenient place,” one survey response said. “The 94 shuttle takes forever, and I don’t have enough time in the day to go out there.”

The center has been offering outside resources to waitlisted students. Three in ten respondents knew of at least one mental health resource at U of L, but knew of few outside of the counseling center. Eight people reported using one.

Students can also access psychiatric treatment through Campus Health and confidential help through the PEACC program. Health Promotion offers proactive programs like yoga to decrease stress.

“For students wanting an intake appointment, we are asking that they schedule in the first available slot and call back to check for cancellations so that they may be able to move up their appointment,” Tyler said.

“We know that it can be difficult for students to decide to seek help, and frustrating to find that there are no immediate openings,” Tyler said, reminding students in a crisis situation to still come in to the center to see someone.



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