As college students, it feels like there aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we need to do. With unlimited homework, exams that never seem to end, clubs that meet almost every day of the week, and plans to keep up with friends, we tend to make cuts on activities that are the most important of all—ones that look after ourselves.
Each day we are faced with an endless supply of choices. With all our obligations and the never-ending choices that come with them, we rarely make time to take that hour-long yoga class at the Plex, take the T downtown to explore, or more importantly, get to the doctor or counselor when we need to seek professional help. Therefore, when students make the time to seek help, it is essential that they are accommodated right away; this is something Boston College is failing to ensure for its students.
Reports have shown that the number of students seeking help on college campuses spiked by 30 percent between 2009-10 and 2014-15. Sixty-one percent of college students seeking counseling report anxiety, 49 percent report depression, and 45 percent report stress. However, the mean student-to-counseling-staff ratio on college campuses is 1,737:1. This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. While these statistics are not specific to BC, it is very obvious that BC does not rise above this national standard. BC Counseling Services has a long way to go to achieve sufficiency and an even longer way to go to achieve excellence.
I spoke with a student on campus about their experience in making an appointment to speak with a counselor. This student is experiencing severe anxiety which is beginning to hinder their ability to perform well academically.
Through their insights, I was able to make some conclusions about how the process works.
First, you must go into the counseling office or call to schedule an over the phone appointment so that they can assess your needs. Usually, it will take one week for you to get an appointment for that initial call. After you have finished the phone appointment, they advise you where to go. If they think it’s beneficial for you to have an appointment with them they schedule one. However, the soonest available appointment is usually one month after the call.
This is the process every student wanting an appointment must go through unless it is “an emergency.” However, students might not always know if it is an emergency or what is classified as an emergency. And even if they do, the idea that BC can only accommodate mental health patients when they are at their absolute worst is troubling, to say the least.
The student I spoke with initially went into the office for an appointment the first week of October, got a call a week later, and just had the appointment this past week—a process that took over a month from the day the student originally went into the office to seek help. This is a frustrating and potentially dangerous time period for those seeking help.
Waiting over a month to see a professional should be unacceptable at BC. There are possibilities that students might not go back, that the problem gets worse over time, that it’s affecting the student’s academic performance, or that they forget some important symptoms to mention in the appointment. A lot can happen in a month and with everything students have on their plate they could become less inclined to look for solutions a month later.
BC Counseling Services is simply too understaffed. Walk in on any given day and the phones will be ringing off the hook as the people behind the front desk stumble trying to speak to the person on the phone and the student in front of them. Even in appointments, the student I spoke with noted that the counselor seemed rushed.
BC Counseling Services recently informed its students about the app WellTrack “designed to address stress, anxiety, and depression.” However, it is important for people to meet in person. Psychologists get a better sense of their patients when analyzing their body language and seeing their initial reactions. While this app may be an improvement, it is not a solution. Students who wish to have appointments should be accommodated with people, not referred to an interactive app.
Mental health is too consequential an issue to go unaddressed. BC must make the well-being of its students a number one priority. Further, this campus should have more than enough resources to ensure that students seeking help do not wait a month to receive it and are able to receive it with a professional in person.
In the time being, with midterm grades coming back and finals picking up, it could be a stressful time. So, if you anticipate needing a professional’s help before finals make sure to book your appointment now and they should be able to squeeze you in by December.