When Jake Rose, a senior majoring in art history, logged on to schedule an appointment with ASU Counseling Services, he was shocked to see the soonest initial consultation was four weeks out.
As of Tuesday, the first available telehealth initial consultation appointment listed on ASU's health portal was Dec. 6. The first available in-person initial consultation appointment on the Tempe campus was Dec. 13, Dec. 7 for the Downtown Phoenix and West campuses and Dec. 6 for the Polytechnic campus.
Complaints posted to social media show this has been a problem all semester, with somewhat consistent month-long wait times for consultations.
Students brought the issue to ASU administration's attention in a student forum with President Michael Crow and Counseling Services Director Aaron Krasnow on Sept. 21. At the time, Krasnow said he wasn't aware of long wait times.
Krasnow said he attributes the "sky-high" demand to increased high-stress factors for college students and the younger generation being more willing to seek out mental health services compared to older generations.
"It's extraordinarily stressful to be a college student right now; it already was," Krasnow said. "Layer in 20 months of a global pandemic, that just raised up everybody's stress levels."
ASU Counseling Services is free to all on-campus students, and there is no limit to the number of sessions they can attend. This excludes ASU Online students, who instead have access to 360 Life Services.
"This is just upsetting," Rose said. "I personally can afford (financially) to go find an outside person, but I know people who couldn't."
According to ASU Counseling Services' "Meet the Team" page, there are currently 34 counselors, three counseling interns and 11 practicum counselors.
The American School Counselor Association, an advocacy organization on behalf of counselors from elementary schools to college campuses, recommends schools have one counselor for every 250 students. With ASU's reported 77,700 on-campus students, Counseling Services' 48 counselors only have the capacity to serve 12,000 students under the association's recommendation.
ASU's ratio is about one counselor for every 1,619 students.
Krasnow said the counseling department is searching for applicants to fill three open positions. "It's hard to know what 'appropriately staffed' is when there are always questions for resources for anything," he said.
Even once students have endured the long wait time for initial consultation appointments, that time spent with a counselor is surface-level, and its purpose is to assess the student's current mental health needs and decide the next steps for support.
"I remember it was hard (last year) to get an (initial consultation) appointment with them," said Abigail Cammiso, a sophomore psychology major.
But after the consultation, follow-up appointments became easier to schedule, Cammiso said.
According to Krasnow, about half of the counselors are available for initial consultation appointments, while the other half carry out treatment for students.
With increasing wait times, Krasnow directs students to the University's online services: EMPACT, ASU's dedicated mental health line, and Open Call and Open Chat, a third-party, 24-hour hotline that launched in April.
But Michael Weaver, a junior studying English, said the phone services aren't adequate long-term solutions. For Open Call and Open Chat, each caller gets connected to a new counselor every time, which makes building a relationship impossible.
"It's just impersonal," Weaver said. “It's not the same versus in-person (counseling); it's not a good supplement."
To immediately speak with a counselor at EMPACT, call 480-921-1006. To speak with a counselor through Open Call and Open Chat, call 877-258-7429.
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Jasmine Kabiri is the community and culture editor at The State Press. She has previously worked as a news intern at the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colorado.