By Olivia Krauth–
More than a year has elapsed since The Cardinal discovered months-long waits and inadequate staffing at the U of L Counseling Center. Despite adding staff and growing concerns over student mental health, the center can’t seem to provide the necessary support.
The center doesn’t have enough appointment slots to meet demand, leaving close to 100 students scrambling for mental health resources. According to Counseling Center Director Aesha Tyler, Psy. D., there is a 96 student wait list for an initial assessment.
To combat the issue, the center began a phone triage system to briefly identify student needs. Urgent consultations, group therapy, lists of community resources and self-care tips are offered depending on need. Tyler said 92 of the students on the waitlist have had a phone triage.
Since beginning the wait list, over 40 students have been taken off the list for intake appointments.
The wait list had 75 students last November, with the center receiving 60 more appointment requests than Nov. 2014. A psychologist and a counselor were hired in January. The center added a counselor Nov. 15, bringing the number of people who can see students to 14.
“As was the case last year, demand for services continues to climb,” Tyler said.
A nationwide issue, the Center for Collegiate Health estimates the number of college students seeking mental health appointments has grown 30 percent over the past six years. In an online survey, The Cardinal found 88 percent of student respondents thought college students faced more mental health issues than the general population – up from 80 percent last year.
All respondents knew someone at U of L with depression – a jump from 86 percent last year. Like last year, all knew someone with anxiety. Two-thirds of respondents rated their overall mental or emotional health as fair or poor – the two lowest options. The majority of students said they are stressed most of the time.
One-sixth of respondents had been turned away or put on a wait list for the center.
“They’re overbooked and understaffed. Unless it’s an emergency, good luck with a two week waiting time,” one respondent said.
“They’re so backed up it’s not even worth trying,” another respondent said of the counseling center. “Tried to use counseling, next available appointment was months away, got canceled on twice, just gave up after that.”
For crisis situations, the center provides urgent, walk-in consultations from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. Tyler said this is not the same as an initial assessment and should not be used to bypass the waitlist.
The center’s group therapy sessions don’t have a wait. Options include support for LGBT and graduate students, as well as dealing with anxiety and depression. A full list with descriptions and meeting times is available on the center’s website.
Tyler said the center is looking at adding one or two more groups next semester, but is not sure what the focus of those will be.