The downside of counseling services

By on February 12, 2015

The counseling services made available at health services are intended to be available for students dealing with issues or for those who simply need to talk to someone. But the hours and availability of counseling services are problematic.

One could argue when counseling services are closed a student could instead turn to a friend, a roommate or a family member. But, the student might not feel comfortable addressing their struggles to a close friend or family member right away.

Personally, I think students struggling with mental illnesses would be more comforted to know there were counseling services on campus 24/7.

Instead, the counseling services are only available at the health center on the Mount Carmel campus from Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. But I think the most important issue with counseling services is the lack of counseling available on weekends.

As a girl, I know how quickly things can escalate on weekends – whether you’re on campus or out in Hamden or New Haven. I’ve seen the awful things that can happen and I’ve seen the way these awful things can affect students. In my nearly three years at Quinnipiac, I’ve heard and seen a lot of scary things happen to the girls I know – and even some of the guys I know.

One of these awful incidents that stands out to me was the time one of my friends was sexually assaulted on a shuttle to New Haven. Being in the seat next to the window, she had no escape and because the other students on the shuttle were too busy singing along to the music, no one heard her asking for help.

This situation was the first time I realized counseling services should provide counselors for the weekends because my friend needed someone to talk to and I felt like I wasn’t being helpful enough because I didn’t know what would be the right or wrong thing to say. My friend needed a professional but there wasn’t one available.

But the process to reach a counselor can be lengthy, even during the week when they’re available.

In order to speak to a counselor, a student must fill out a form in the health center on the Mount Carmel campus or online. However, if a student wants to fill out the form online – which everyone I’ve spoken with has decided to do because they were uncomfortable going into health services to fill it out – they cannot access the form under the “Student Health Services” tab on MyQ.

The online form is accessed through the Quinnipiac homepage, under the “student experience” dropdown, the “health + safety” section and then once you choose “counseling services” you can access the form.

If a student successfully finds the form online and fills it out, then they must wait for a counselor to contact them to schedule an appointment. But that isn’t always an immediate process.

Last semester specifically, I knew a girl who talked about being sexually assaulted on the weekend, submitted her form to health services to see a counselor and did not get a phone call until a few weeks later. What if something had happened in those weeks while she waited for help because she was so emotionally vulnerable?

Something should be done at this university to better support those suffering. Rather than making these individuals feel isolated and embarrassed, they should be supported and encouraged for their bravery for wanting to seek help for whatever they’re dealing with.

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About Tara O'Neill

Co-News Editor -- Twitter: @tara_oneill_