By Elka Wiesenberg, Opinion Editor
The parallel between mental health and physical health has been drawn many times, often in terms of de-stigmatizing the former. Just as you would sympathize with a friend who reveals a chronic physical illness, not G-d forbid judge or condescend because of it, that’s the attitude you should have towards mental health.
Let’s use that parallel one more time. Just like you wouldn’t accept anything less than the best healthcare from the PAs at YU, you absolutely should not accept anything subpar from the Counseling Center. If there is any student need that is expected to be taken care of, but is not being addressed by the PAs, someone would write an article and do something about it. What about mental health needs?
I would like to preface this by saying: DO go to the Counseling Center. Just because I want to talk about how to improve it does not mean it’s not worth going to right now. I want it to be better, but it’s already an appropriate place for you to go if you’re struggling with mental health in any way.
College is a really, really stressful time for many young adults. It’s a transition from childhood to adulthood. It’s a time of identity struggle. It’s a different workload and social scene than high school or seminary/yeshiva. College is not the party that so many make it out to be.
Because of this, many students need help. They need someone to turn to, to talk to. They need the Counseling Center.
The first problem, one that must be remedied with efforts by both the Counseling Center and students’ combined, is the stigma around therapists. No, going to the trained professionals at the Counseling Center does not mean you’re crazy — whether or not you have a mental illness, you’re not crazy. It actually makes you smart. If you aren’t feeling well mentally, go to the doctor! It’s that simple. Don’t be embarrassed — everyone could use help from time to time.
So you went to the Counseling Center. You had a good experience. That’s awesome. You want to reschedule. After your second session, you want a third. You ask for one.
Well, sometimes, you’re told there isn’t time.
The second problem is that the Counseling Center, whether truthfully or not, claims not to have the resources to take everyone who needs them more than a couple times.
YU, if you do not have the proper resources to provide your students with as much mental health care as they require, it’s time to up your game. It’s NOT okay to turn a student away when he or she needs you most. Oftentimes, those are the students coming back to you a third, fourth, or tenth time. Even if it’s not weekly sessions, make time for these students. It’s discouraging to someone who reaches out for help when that person isn’t taken seriously enough to be given the time of day. Allocate more funds for mental health care. Extend hours. Bring in more counselors. Do what you need to do to keep your students safe and secure.
The third problem is recommendations. If you don’t have enough resources for a student, while you should still be there and meet with him or her as much and as often as possible, you need to have a better database of people to refer students to. Have lists of people with availability under all large insurance companies. Find lists when students come to you with less-known insurance. Spend more time finding resources to make up for what you currently lack, instead of just recommending out-of-pocket therapists, no matter how cheap they are.
If these three needs are addressed, YU, you will be a safer, happier, and healthier place. You will be the environment college students badly need. This is not an option; it’s an obligation. If you truly are a university that cares about its students as much as you claim, you will pour as much as possible into this vital operation.
Kol hamkayim nefesh achat myisrael, maaleh alav hakatuv kiylu mkayim olam kulo. Anyone who saves a Jewish life, the Torah considers it as if he has saved the whole world. Think about the lives that could be saved by a better Counseling Center, and invest in it.
Editor’s Note: The Beren Campus Counseling Center was moved to the 13th floor of 215 Lexington Ave.