Counseling center searches for ways to meet demand

Photo by Sho Kitamura

As demand for the counseling center has increased, available resources have failed to increase at the same rate to meet the demand. The counseling center is looking forward to further expansion.

“I would like to see the counseling center significantly increased in staff size to allow us to provide a greater number of individual, couples and group counseling sessions in response to the increased demand of students seeking support to improve their mental health,” said Abby Myers,  a licensed psychologist at the Counseling Center.

Currently, the Counseling Center sees roughly 1,100-1,200 clients per year, which amounts to about 7,000 appointments. With more and more students using it, the counseling center has found more resourceful ways to attend to Tech students.

“As our demand for services has increased over the years, we have implemented a stepped-care service model,” Myers said. “This model allows us to serve more students by providing workshops and short-term consultations when appropriate, rather than referring most new clients to individual counseling, when individual counseling was not always the best fit for those clients.”

The Counseling center sees around 1100-1200 clients per year, which amounts to about 7000 appointments.

Some of the Counseling Center’s new programs involve live streaming a stress management series, launching a Collegiate Recovery Program for students with addictions and hiring a Crisis Response and Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Lacy Currie.

Partly because of a lack of resources, outside referrals are still sometimes necessary to give students the help they need.

“We continually work to develop strong relationships with trusted off-campus therapists on insurance panels so that we can make effective referrals when necessary,” Myers said.

To help plan a Counseling Center expansion and to solve mental health problems around campus, President Peterson created a “Mental Health Task Force.”

“[The Task Force was] set up to formalize a lot of concerns students have been having and take that up to the higher level,” said Nick Picon, Undergraduate President of SGA and member of the Mental Health Task Force.

The Task Force, made up of both students and higher level administrators, is hoping to come up with specific recommendations for small improvements that will benefit the Counseling Center and mental health at Tech as whole.

President Peterson also signed a proclamation designating September as National Recovery Month at Tech to raise awareness of mental health and substance abuse issues.

The theme of Recovery Month is “Join the Voices of Recovery Together on Pathways to Wellness” and this has been promoted throughout campus.

Statistics at Tech generally fall in line with those for college students around the country. According to the 2012 American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment, about 30 percent of college students report feeling so depressed they have difficulty functioning, 50 percent experience extreme anxiety and seven percent consider suicide.

“I feel like it has been for a long time. We’ve been seeing more and more incidences and cases of mental illness and I don’t think that should be something associated with our campus,” Picon said. “It’s fine to laugh about staying up until 4 a.m., but when it starts to affect who you are and your happiness, then Georgia Tech isn’t accomplishing its goal.”

Myers hopes the Counseling Center will play a major role in increasing positive mental health at Tech.

“I would like to see the counseling center serve as a leader in developing a culture of wellness on campus with the development of a wellness center and through increased collaborative relationships with other departments,” Myers said.

While the task force also sees itself playing a role in the further expansion of the Counseling Center, it realizes that there  are many changes necessary to really affect mental health at Tech.

“Recommendations that come out of task force are going to relate to counseling center resources. But there isn’t really one solution…[we’re] trying to figure out how to make small improvements towards a better culture on campus,” Picon said.

Myers also sees value in campus-wide campaigns to promote mental health and awareness.

“I believe campus-wide prevention efforts aimed at addressing the culture of stress that often contributes to distress and illness can help students learn the necessary coping skills before they need them, thereby feeling more empowered to balance their academic and personal lives,” Myers said.

All of Tech’s mental health initiatives are aimed at supporting students and continuing to do so in the future.

“College is supposed to be the best years of your life. If you’re spending it worrying or going through difficult times without support, that’s going to be detrimental to your growth as a person,” Picon said.