The increasing demand for mental health counseling has left Magers Health and Wellness Center at Missouri State University struggling to meet the demand and many students frustrated.
To answer the questions students may have, MSU Student Body President Abdillahi Dirie and Director of Health and Wellness Chelsey Small weighed in on mental health on campus, and what needs to be done for the counseling center.
Dirie, in addition to being the student body president, is also a student worker at the counseling center.
“Mental health has become something that students are only just coming to terms with,” Dirie said. “In our society, we’re just beginning to understand others and we’re starting to want to seek help.”
Dirie said this was the cause of the overwhelming demand for counselors at the counseling center.
“In college, we’re met with this culture shock. A lot of students begin to realize how its tumultuous nature can negatively affect them,” Dirie said.
Small said students’ expectations can cause some of their mental struggles when coming to college.
“College students have such a rough time because of false expectations we’ve set up for ourselves,” Small said. ”When students come in they’re shocked at just how much is expected of them and how much work they need to put in.”
According to Small, most students come in with an expectation of college as a great experience where they will make a lot of new friends and they’ll enjoy what they study and excel. While these things can happen, a lot of students are met with the stress of maintaining their social circle while they may not enjoy or even know what they want to study. Even if they do know, they may not excel like they thought they would.
“When it doesn’t work out how they thought it would, students begin to feel down on themselves,” Small said. “They think they did something wrong when really it’s just part of adjusting to life.”
Both Small and Dirie attributed this to the development of mental illness including disorders like anxiety and depression.
Dirie said medication and counseling go “hand in hand.”
“I know a lot of students who go to counseling in addition to taking medication,” Dirie said.
Small said she has a different perspective on medication.
“It depends on the severity of the case,” Small said. “We usually recommend counseling and therapy before prescribing medication but some people just need that extra bit of help.”
According to Small, most students are given medication as a last resort and most who are prescribed medication are given it due to genetic problems.
“I think it’s time for us to look to new solutions for the counseling center’s overflow of patients,” Dirie said. “Whether that’s adding a new fee to students or getting our state legislators to provide more funding.”
Both Dirie and Small, in addition to other SGA cabinet members, were able to collaborate with the SGA at the University of Missouri in speaking with the state legislators. They found that of their questions, the ones about mental health were not answered.
According to Dirie, the issue of overflow in counseling centers has been shown to be a statewide problem, not just affecting Magers. Both Dirie and Small agree that something needs to be done at the state level to help the counseling centers of Missouri deal with the issue.
“I don’t think we can handle the issue on our own,” Small said. “But as a university, the biggest thing is advocacy for the counseling center, because the more it’s talked about the more the administration will realize how needed the counseling center is by the students.”
Small said her hope is for the administration to expand the counseling center and put more funding into it.
Still, the need for state-level action was made clear by the two who said their hope is to get more chances to advocate for it at a legislative level.