The Counseling Center at the University of Illinois tries to be an accessible place to help students deal with everything from academic to interpersonal concerns.
Allison Flores, 21, a junior in communications, had a couple of appointments her freshman year but was suddenly told to seek treatment elsewhere.
“They basically said I had a lot of issues and they weren’t equipped to deal with them so I would have to find someone outside of campus to go see,” says Flores.
She was diagnosed with two issues common to students, but was still refused care. Flores, who is from the north suburbs of Chicago, explains that it is hard to find good mental health care that is convenient in Champaign, and being turned away from somewhere on campus that is supposed to be accessible to all students made a huge impact on her.
“They made me feel worse about what was going on than I did before,” says Flores.
Flores is now seeing a professional near her home but says that having a resource at school would have helped her much more because of the close proximity to care. She has not tried the Counseling Center or other Illinois mental health services since she was turned away and says she probably will not again.
“They did not treat me as fairly as I thought they should,” she says.
Mental health on college campuses has been a topic of concern across the country. Ninety-five percent of college counseling center directors surveyed said the number of students with significant psychological problems is a growing concern in their center or on campus, according to the latest survey by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors. Two-thirds of students who are struggling do not even seek treatment.
Campus mental health resources hope to help this problem, with accessibility being the main draw. The Counseling Center’s location just off the Quad even demonstrates this attempted availability. Even though the Counseling Center had a reported 12,700 appointments scheduled in the 2016-2017 school year, some students say even getting these appointments may be tough.
Junior in computer science Yoshi Komiya, 21, has used the Counseling Center before but says making initial appointments can be difficult for students.
“To make just the first appointment, you have to call at 7 am and hope for an appointment opening which you then have to make later the same day. This was hard for me because when I really needed help, I couldn’t just make an appointment in the week to plan around.”
Komiya says he went to a few appointments and liked his counselor, but thinks the process to initially get help should be easier.
Yoshi Komiya, 22, junior from San Jose, CA
“Maybe students should be able to call anytime during the day to book an appointment. Students are so busy and need convenience, and that might make them seek help more.”
The Counseling Center offers many different kinds of counseling, from groups to individual sessions. These can be used for a variety of problems students face. Senior Sahran Hussain, 21, attended several group sessions at the Center last year, but says he did not have much choice in the matter.
“They forced me into group sessions, when I was really only comfortable with individual sessions, and even told them that,” he says.
Group sessions can be helpful in counseling, but pushing uncomfortable students towards these more open types of therapy can cause anxiety.
The availability of appointments was also an issue for Hussain.
“They only had appointments two or three weeks after I wanted them. Having to call at 7 AM was a hassle as well,” he says.
Hussain eventually stopped going to the Center as he did not want to attend more group sessions, and could not get more immediate one-on-one appointments. He was disappointed in the care that he received there.
“I think the Counseling Center is a great idea, but it needs to be a little more available and open to students and all their concerns. They did not really listen to what I was comfortable with,” he says.
If students need help on campus, the Counseling Center is supposed to provide that resource. It does provide a 24-hour emergency consultation service collaboratively with McKinley Mental Health Department and the Champaign County Mental Health Department.
While this school resource is designed to help students, it seems that more could be done to make it accessible to the people it is designed to help the most. Mental health is a huge concern for young adults, and the pressures of school can become too much.
The University of Illinois also offers mental health services and appointment at McKinley Health Center. Students seeking help are urged to call McKinley at (217) 333-2701 or the Counseling Center at 217-333-3704. For emergencies, contact the Police Department immediately or Suicide Prevention Team at the Counseling Center at 217-333-3704 during the office hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.).