Posted by The Editorial Board
It's easy to overlook the College's department of Counseling Services. Located in a corner of the first floor of Jonsson Tower, Counseling Services consists of dorm rooms converted into offices and a cramped waiting room that offers a concerning lack of privacy.
The location of Counseling Services is not the only way that the department is overlooked. Mental health issues, as President of the Skidmore chapter of Active Minds, Siena Tugendrajch, told The Skidmore News, are still stigmatized on college campuses.
The New York Times reported in 2010 that the demand for mental health services in college students has steadily grown over the course of the past decade, stating that national surveys demonstrate a 100% increase in the number of students who visit counseling centers that are coping with serious mental illness.
The Skidmore campus has experienced this increase as well. According to the Director of Counseling Services, Dr. Julia Routbort, as of this October there has been a 28 percent increase in the number of students seeking help at the counseling center. The increase spurred the center to request contingency funding from the administration. According to Routbort, the request was authorized within a week, and allows Counseling Services the wherewithal to hire a temporary clinician that will work 15 to 20 hours a week (permanent clinicians at the center work thirty-five-hour weeks, and on average conduct thirty clinical appointments a week, according to Routbort).
The increase for demand has been such that the average waiting period for an appointment has increased from four to five days over the course of this semester. But the problem, says Routbort, is largely spatial rather than financial. Even if Counseling Services had the funds to hire an additional full-time clinician, there is no physical space for the clinician to conduct his or her appointments, Routbort said.
Last year the office of Counseling Services received funding from the administration to hire an architect to re-model the ground floor of Jonsson Tower, which houses Health Services (a department which is notably not handicap-accessible due to its cramped layout), Counseling Services and the Office of Health Promotions. There are plans later this year to move the Office of Health Promotions to Wiecking Hall, freeing up more space on the first floor of Jonsson Tower. Ten years ago, there was a potential plan for a Health and Wellness Building, which was put on the back burner due to financial constraints. What does this say about our campus values?
Over the last couple of years, the College has made notable renovations to the campus: the construction of the Sussman and North Woods villages, the sustainable geothermal projects and now there are plans for a new science center and the relocation of the admissions building onto campus . While these renovations undoubtedly benefit the student body and increase the College's appeal to potential students, The Skidmore News feels that serious consideration must be given to the expansion of Counseling Services on campus.
Peer mentors, the Office of Residential Life and the Center for Sex and Gender Relations, as well as numerous other groups on campus refer students to the counseling center if they are seeking help. But are we doing anything to help fuel this resource?
Across the Skidmore Campus and nationally, there's been an increase in the demand for mental health services. The frequency of tragic school shootings has illuminated the issue of unaddressed mental health issues among students, yet on our own campus we have not seen permanent growth in the Counseling Services Office in over a decade. Not only has this stagnation in growth imposed an eight-session per academic year limit on students seeking individual psychotherapy, but The Skidmore News believes it reflects a concerning perpetuation of the stigmatization of mental health on our campus. The relocation of Health Services to Wiecking Hall may provide a short-term solution to overcrowding, but as the school pushes forward with renovation plans, namely with Case Center, this newspaper hopes the administration will include generous room for Counseling Services. They need the funds as well as the room to efficiently and thoroughly help our students.