Prioritizing mental health services on campus

Anna Malesiewski, Assistant Editor

The need for mental health services is at an all-time high, especially among young adults. Young adults aged 18-25 have the highest prevalence of mental illnesses of all age groups, and the suicide rate is rapidly increasing.
At Gannon University alone, over 600 students are seeking mental health services.
And at Gannon, we have three counselors.
Do the math. That is over 200 students per counselor.
Our health and counseling center is amazing. They are compassionate, hard-working and dedicated. These individuals work tirelessly for the students at Gannon. However, the demand is greater than they can, and should, have to undertake.
Unfortunately for them and the students seeking services, another counselor is simply not in Gannon’s budget. But when the university spends millions of dollars on buildings and athletics, it is disheartening that the need for more mental health and wellness services cannot be met.
Consider the university’s COVID-19 response. It was seamless, timely and certainly not lacking in resources. During move-in, the university was able to administer thousands of tests, and it was executed flawlessly.
COVID-19 is a very serious matter. So is mental health. Why are both not met with the same urgency?
Health and wellness are not confined to the physical body. Physical and mental health go hand in hand. What if Gannon put as much effort into mental health as it does into physical health?
Imagine if the university rolled out mental health services the way it rolled out COVID-19 testing services. Imagine if students were able to get evaluated for mental illness as easily as they are able to get tested for COVID-19. Imagine if we saw 2,000 conversations about how students really are, like we saw 2,000 COVID-19 tests. Imagine if we had daily mental health check-ins, similar to how we check in every day on the LiveSafe app.
Imagine how much more supported students would feel if we did these things. Imagine how much more comfortable we would all be talking about mental health.
Why are we so eager to discuss our physical health, but we hesitate to talk about our mental health?
Gannon can play a major role in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness. It can do this through increased resources.
The more resources that are available, the more students will be able to use them. And the more students utilize mental health resources, the more commonplace it will be to seek mental health help. This will reduce the fear and shame that some may feel when it comes to reaching out to receive mental health help.
Would we rather have students drink to excess because they are not mentally or emotionally well? Would we rather have students harm themselves because a mental health professional is not accessible? Would we rather have students who are stressed to the point that they cannot function normally?
By neglecting to put adequate funding into mental health services, Gannon University is inadvertently sending the message that mental health is not a major priority. And in tumultuous times such as the ones we live in, this can be detrimental.
Quite frankly, I am appalled that this is not a higher priority item in the university budget. I am begging Gannon to reconsider this, before it is too late for many students.



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