Sage Kiernan-Sherrow | News Editor
According to the 2018 Marion-Polk Community Health Profile, depression ranks as the most common chronic condition experienced in our community, and approximately 1 in 10 adolescents reported having attempted suicide in the last year.
At Western, appointments to the Student Health and Counseling Center are booked until finals week. Director of the Student Health and Counseling Center, Beth Scroggins, said, “we are aware that it is an issue, we are aware that there are students who are just now getting an intake done and it’s going to be January before they will get to be seen.”
In Monmouth, students have few options for mental health services and their coverage depends entirely on insurance. Their student fees cover the cost of mental health services on campus, but therein lies the problem: “Everything that runs (the Student Health and Counseling Center) is only provided through student fees … funding keeps going down because of lowered enrollment, but demand for services goes up,” reported Scroggins.
However, Scroggins divulged that she is “glad we have this problem and not the other problem — that students won’t come in.” She revealed that this year in particular, she has seen a rise in students accessing services and thinks that some of “the stigma has diminished.”
“We are looking at how we can accommodate more and what that is going to look like,” she said, but as of now they’re still in the planning stages.
Despite that, Scroggins assured that the Student Health and Counseling Center will “always have crisis services available,” and emphasized the various new support groups on campus that have been created from student need and initiative. She also expressed admiration for the amount of “faculty, staff, students, and community members (who) do a great job of referring students to us,” and wanted to stress the importance of community involvement.
Of the optional survey that students can complete after their visit to the counseling center, Scroggins asserted that she always reads “every single one of those,” and that they’ve “already made some changes to student services based on those, so (she) takes student feedback very seriously.”
And while she believes that stigma has reduced, “people are a lot more comfortable talking about depression, anxiety, self-care … when we start talking about PTSD, trauma, sexual assault, abuse, psychosis … people don’t know how to respond to that because lack of information or knowledge,” she said.
“People worry so much about saying the wrong thing … that they say nothing. Say something,” Scroggins urged.
As a community, we need to be “comfortable with hearing things that are uncomfortable,” and remember that, “people don’t have to be experts to be a support system,” Scroggins said. She followed up with that, sometimes, all it takes is noticing the differences in a person’s behavior or listening to someone and directing them towards help to make a difference.
Regarding the student suicide that was reported in an email sent out on Nov. 6 by Western’s vice president of Student Affairs, Gary Dukes, Scroggins stated, “when there is a student death, it does affect everybody … I think that mental health is an issue for everybody; even if they aren’t directly experiencing it themselves, someone they know is.” Scroggins reminded all students to “give themselves grace,” count their support systems, engage in self-care and set healthy boundaries.
“Things will be okay, and even when they’re not, they will be,” Scroggins concluded.
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