Opinion

Keeping up with college depression and anxiety

Stephanie Newsom, director of counseling services at Wartburg, said the busiest time of the year for the counseling center is during the fall.

You step onto campus for the first time as you begin your college career. You feel depressed and are full of anxiety. Stephanie Newsom, director of counseling services at Wartburg says you are not alone.

Colleges across the country are dealing with students that suffer from these disorders daily and are struggling to keep up with demand.

Wartburg is dealing with the problem of depression in students, a problem that shows no signs of decreasing in the foreseeable future according to Wartburg counselor Molly Wertz.

The problem does not stop there. A study from “Counseling Today” states staff growth at college and university counseling centers has typically failed to keep pace with this increased burden. The study shows some college’s student to counselor ratio is one to 3,000 when the recommended ratio is about one to 1,000.

Wartburg is not doing a bad job with their counselor to student ratio. Newsom said the ratio is about one to 700 but there are times of the year when services can fall behind.

Surveys conducted by the American College Counseling Association (ACCA), a division of the American Counseling Association, indicate the percentage of students struggling with serious mental health issues has increased.

“Counseling Today” says these college counseling centers are often scrambling to stay on top of their caseloads.

If you stop there, you might think colleges don’t care about meeting with these students, but that’s wrong. They are trying, but they just don’t have the resources to do so.

“We never have the problem of getting students in to get counseling, but there are times when a student might have to wait a week to see a counselor,” Newsom said.

Newsom said the busiest time of the year is in the fall when freshmen first come to campus. She said a half-time counselor during the busy times of the year would help.

“We want to be a resource and talk with students about these problems,” Newsom said.

She said it is unfortunate students may wait a week before they see a counselor but those instances are rare.

This is where the problem becomes severe. When students want help with depression and anxiety but get told they have to wait a few days maybe even a week before they see a counselor, their state of depression and anxiety will not get better.

Colleges, like Wartburg, want students with depression to get counseling. Newsom said some of the problems that correlate with delayed counseling are lack of space.

Another problem Newsom said Wartburg’s counseling services suffers from is time allotted to patients. When services get booked, they may decrease the amount of time to visit with a student about their problems.

A normal counseling session at Wartburg is 50 minutes per appointment but Newsom said if counseling services get overbooked they may limit the time to 20 to 30 minutes per appointment.

There are the facts. There is a growing problem of depression in college students. Colleges are having trouble keeping up with demand, including Wartburg.

It is not because they are not trying. They do want to talk with these students, but the demand is so high and they have limited time and resources to meet with them.

Let’s rethink this again. No one is at fault. Students are not at fault for suffering from these problems nor are the counseling services at fault for delaying an appointment. Colleges want more space for counseling and more counselors on staff but they are not quite financially able to.

Depression in college students is a problem that will only get worse in years to come. We can only hope college counseling services can get the resources to meet with these students; sooner rather than later.

From the 2015 American College Health Association National College Health Assessment

  • 75,000 students completed this assessment
  • 4 percent reported experiencing greater than average stress within the past 12 months
  • 3 percent reported feeling tremendous stress

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