With reports of extensive wait times and negative interactions, ASU Counseling Services needs reform as soon as possible. These consistent issues point to a demand for more staffing and proper training to adequately address mental health issues faced by the student body.
This issue becomes even more vital to address as we begin fall and approach winter, and Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly known as seasonal depression, is triggered by the change. Seasonal depression affects roughly 5% of Americans every year. Not to mention, the onset age ranges from 20-30 years old. For students of ASU, many of whom fall into this age range, the stress of the end of the semester may not be the only issue they face.
ASU offers counseling services "available 24/7 at no cost," according to its site. Upon arrival at the ASU Counseling Services page, bold letters spell out "We're here for you. Anytime, anywhere."
This is a message recently reciprocated by the ASU Police Department, which tweeted earlier this month "YOU DON'T HAVE TO FACE IT ALONE," encouraging students to reach out to ASU Counseling Services. But for those who have, this claim seemingly falls flat.
For Catie Green, a freshman studying nursing, visiting ASU's free counseling service was far from easy. After scheduling the soonest in-person appointment, which happened to be weeks out, Green was not satisfied with her visit.
"I went in to speak to a real person in that moment. (ASU Counseling Services) gave me the information for a support group and dismissed me," Green said. "I think they just wanted to push me out the door."
After seeking help from two different staff members of ASU's Counseling Services, Phineas Hogan, a freshman studying journalism and mass communication, considered his interaction a failure.
"After a two-hour process with paperwork, all I gained was a phone number. When I called the number, they had no counselors available, and I had to reschedule again," Hogan said. "When they called me a few days later, I had a 12-minute call with some person who was in Atlanta, they just told me I needed to get medicated."
ASU Counseling Services notes that they serve 75,000 students, which is almost all of the ASU students who attend on-campus. In 2022, ASU hit new record enrollment with a total of 79,232 in-person students.
According to ASU Counseling Services' "Meet The Team" page, there are currently 23 counselors, three counseling interns and eight practicum counselors. This equates to about one counselor for every 2,330 students. It's easy to tie this evident understaffing issue to the inability of students to quickly schedule appointments.
ASU Counseling Services did not respond to a request for comment.
As easy as it is to get stuck on the faults of ASU Counseling Services, something has to be done. Sammy Cristerna, a peer outreach specialist for ASU Counseling Services, offered advice on what could be done to help solve the issue of timeliness but also drew attention to the problem of balancing this timeliness with already overworked counselors.
"Time is super, super important when it comes to a mental health crisis … adding more counselors to the team could help fix the problem, but that's hard to do when they're overworked," Cristerna said.
As someone who has thought about reaching out to ASU Counseling Services, hearing so many negative experiences from other students has unfortunately deterred me from meeting with them until changes have been made.
ASU should prioritize hiring more counselors and ensuring those counselors endure training that will allow them to offer advice that will truly help students during times of crisis. When students are facing mental health issues, timeliness is the most important factor, and ASU needs to take that into account.
Next time the weather has me feeling blue, I hope I can feel comfortable reaching out to ASU's Counseling Services, but I don't see that happening until there have been necessary adjustments.
Edited by Sadie Buggle, Wyatt Myskow, Piper Hansen and Kristen Apolline Castillo.
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Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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