To keep up with the high demand of mental health services for students, The University of Minnesota's Boynton Mental Health Services and Student Counseling Services are expanding, hiring new staff and enlarging existing programs.
In addition to hiring four new therapists, Boynton is offering extra workshops for students to learn how to cope with things like stress, anxiety or depression. Student Counseling Services has also added new staff members, as the request for counseling continues to increase. To reach more students across campus, additional counselors have been embedded into Carlson School of Management and the College of Liberal Arts counseling services.
“We are all responsible for the health and well-being of the students,” said Jerry Shih, interim director for Student Counseling Services.
Steve Hermann, director of Boynton, said there is not a single explanation for the increased demand for mental health services. A combination of a de-stigmatization of mental health and rising levels of diagnosed anxiety, stress and depression are all reasons for the increase in traffic, he said.
Boynton has seen issues with waitlists in the past due to the increase of requests for services, Hermann said. Students are waitlisted if they cannot schedule an appointment within two weeks. The new therapists were added to help reduce wait times.
“Access is not strictly getting in the door,” Hermann said. “Access is also about whether students can be seen with the frequency that addresses their needs.”
With more hires and additional space, Boynton is offering more group therapy sessions in an effort to help students feel comfortable talking with students with similar experiences.
“[Group therapy sessions] are additional resources that help meet the spectrum of demand,” Hermann said.
Michelle Krypel, coordinator for group therapy sessions, said group therapy can be an empowering experience for students, as it can be validating to know other students are going through similar issues.
“We want to make sure everyone there will benefit,” Krypel said.
To provide services beyond formal counseling, SCS is expanding the Let’s Talk program this fall.
The program allows students to attend drop-in sessions. Previously, Let's Talk was only offered at one location, but it has expanded to eight locations across the Twin Cities campus.
The aim for the program has been to reach students who would not normally come into the Student Counseling Center, Shih said. The program targets underrepresented and marginalized students by offering additional services and group sessions.
Despite the expansion of programs and additional staff, Shih said there are still limitations in the mental health services.
“There are always resource limits … we are always looking within restrictions,” Shih said.