Reaching out to a critic is never easy. You can never be sure why they’re denouncing you. It could be a personal issue, something more logical they’re looking for progress or simply complaining to complain. With all of these issues fighting against reaching out to critiques, I was pleasantly surprised when Gladys Koscak, a mental health specialist at Counseling Services, invited me to come in and talk about my article and the services they offered. I went in with the impression they were going to try to convince me to change my views, tell me grand stories about the work they do and how I’m just misinformed.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
After a quick tour, I sat down with Turi Honegger, a psychologist at Counseling Services, and Koscak and we discussed counseling services, mental disorders, the complicated transitions from high school to college and then college to the real world, and anything else we could think of. I left an hour later with a new understanding of the counseling services on this campus and how my initial impressions, while not wrong, did not address every issue.
Our counseling services are understaffed and underfunded, through no fault of the counseling services. The 13 psychiatrists on staff are undeniably trying their hardest with the resources they have to help whoever enter their door. The simple fact that they reached out to me, someone who obviously did not have a positive view of their services, shows a determination and commitment to their field and to their students and I highly commend them for doing so.
The problem does not lie in the psychologists. I’ve personally been to therapy and can honestly say my therapist was one of the sweetest and most caring individuals I’ve ever met. They’re willing to give you their everything and want to help you. They truly do, but the resources aren’t there. The 13 psychologists and a handful of interns are expected to address the needs of almost 20,000 undergraduates.
A good benchmark used by universities according to Honegger is one psychologist for every 1,000 to 1,150 students. That means our university is operating at about half capacity or one psychologist for every 1,538 students. This is severely hindering Counseling Service’s ability to adequately address the issues of our campus and makes it nearly impossible for the people who need the most help to receive it.
A stigma hovers over mental disorders of any kind. No one wants to admit they might be depressed or that they might have schizophrenia or they might be bipolar. With all of that stopping them from coming forward coupled with the overstretched staff at Counseling Services, it’s no surprise my friend felt unacknowledged and ignored. She didn’t fully express how much help she needed, ashamed and determined to not be a bother to people who simply seemed too busy for her.
And to an extent, they are. Booked weeks in advance, it’s easy for people to slip through the cracks. It’s not Counseling Services fault per say and the psychologists certainly try their hardest to not let it happen, but with this many students and the restrained funding and resources Counseling Services receives, it’s almost impossible to avoid. Try as they might, and I can assure you they do, the psychologists, the interns, and the staff don’t have time to meet with every single person who comes in and, unless someone speaks up, they can’t tell who truly needs immediate attention.
In the end, the responsibility rests on the students. I hate to add more pressure to someone experiencing any sort of emotional or mental distress, but this needs to be said. I’ve been there and I know how hard it is to ask for help. I know how hard it is to admit there’s a problem and demand any sort of attention. It’s as hard to seek out the help as it is to continue living with the issue. I promise you I understand.
But I’m begging any of you who think you might have a problem, whether it be depression, bipolar disorder, suicidal tendencies or even thoughts, anything that’s causing your mental stability to waver, to please seek help. Please go to these psychologists and honestly tell them the moment you walk in that you need help. Regardless of how busy they are, they’ll stop. They’ll help you. They’re overworked, but they care and they’ll push themselves to new busy limits to help. You have my word.
At the end of the day, the responsibility falls on the individual and everyone who knows them. Take care of each other, UCSB. Look out for one another and help out the people who look like they’re not coping well. A helping hand goes a long way and who knows? You might just save a life.