More UF students utilize counseling services
By Lauren Wolters
The University of Findlay’s Counseling Services recently met with the University president Dr. Katherine Fell and the cabinet to discuss a growing problem on UF’s campus: mental health. Director of Counseling Services, Jodi Firsdon says they are looking at options to deal with increasing numbers of students looking for help from her office.
“Counseling Services has gone in front of the President and the cabinet in order to discuss what options would be available,” Firsdon said. “Starting early this year, we realized that there were more students than ever requesting returning services or incoming students requesting services and connections for services.”
She says they talked about various ideas to address the situation.
“We discussed what options could be helpful to increase services to the students such as adding another counseling position, partnering with a telehealth company, or any other creative solutions that would be available,” Firsdon said. “The board and the President were willing to continue to explore all available options to best support the students.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the third leading cause of death among people aged 15-24 falling only to unintentional injury and homicide. While the total age-adjusted rates of suicide have been decreasing slightly the past few years, the nation is seeing a tremendous increase in the number of individuals seeking mental health services. This is especially evident among college students as a University of Michigan study found that more than 60% of college students “met criteria for one or more mental health problems.” That is a 50% increase from 2013 to 2021 according to that study.
Earlier this month Firsdon explained that every day the three counselors on staff are booked solid seeing six to seven students per day.
“We’ve just had such an increase in the severity of needs for the students coming in, it just wasn’t covering it. It was way beyond that,” Firsdon said earlier this semester. “I think we had about 30 people that came just that very first week of classes.”
She explained further in a recent email interview.
“I don’t know if it’s a change in actual mental health issues or if we’re getting better at talking about things and reducing stigma,” Firsdon said. “I think we also have to keep in mind that we have been going through a pandemic. That’s not officially over. We’ve had social justice issues. We’ve had political issues. We have a war in Ukraine. We have Roe vs. Wade being overturned. We have had a lot of world issues that have been going on, so that definitely affects everybody.”
These extra stressors can make it even more difficult for students to manage their mental health. According to a Washington Post article, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is advocating for routine anxiety screens for adults 65 and under. The goals of these screens are to alleviate some of the stigma associated with mental health and more importantly to help people get help early on when they are having mental health issues.
Counseling services recently sent out information about National Depression Screening day which is Oct. 6. It says about a third of college students around the country report depression symptoms. There is a free online screening to take if you think you might be struggling with depression.
Counseling services have also seen an increase in the number of incoming students seeking help before they are on campus. Firsdon said that it’s good that more students feel comfortable seeking help, but it also increases the need for extra staff.
Because of this Counseling Services is working on how to acquire more resources to meet the increased demand from students.
“So right now, we are looking at with the whole university, what options are available,” Firsdon said. “We don’t have anything concrete just yet. We are definitely trying to plan on and make arrangements for things to be different.”
Counseling Services may look to change its model of counseling and add more staff to more effectively manage the increased needs of UF students.
The increased need for counseling services by students has also led to a slightly longer wait for these services. What used to be a standard two-week waiting period for a student seeking ongoing counseling has now become a two to three-week waiting period.
“It is standard that we are going to have a little bit of a wait,” Firsdon said. “Usually it’s two to three weeks, which is pretty standard anywhere in the community and most of the time, it’s going to be even longer in the community as well.”
Students on the waitlist for counseling can still be seen during Counseling Services’ walk-in hours on Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Firsdon adds that many students will utilize walk-in hours before their actual scheduled appointment.
These walk-in appointments are shorter than scheduled appointments, but they allow more students to be seen when there are not very many openings for scheduled appointments. At walk-in hours there are two to three counselors on call, and all students that come to the allotted time will be seen.
“Two weeks ago, we had seven students that came in during the one hour,” Firsdon said. “However, there were two counselors that were working, and we were able to see all of those students.”
Besides walk-in hours, Counseling Services can also triage more urgent appointments and patient cases.
“Anybody that wants to set up ongoing appointments will fill out an initial contact form online, and it helps us to be able to triage if a person needs to be expedited,” Firsdon said. “If somebody is experiencing any suicidal thoughts or any homicidal thoughts, that would be more of an urgent situation where we’re going to make sure that we’re touching base with that student sooner rather than later.”
In addition to seeing a counselor, students can also look at self-help resources on counseling services website. Firsdon said that there are online support groups for students struggling with mental health.
Students facing more urgent mental health issues can call the crisis tech service at 741741 to talk to someone quickly. For suicide-related crises students can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988.
“And overall, also just practicing some self-care,” Firsdon said. “We need to be taking care of ourselves. That is eating, sleeping, exercising, and doing some things that you actually enjoy in addition to being a student and all the other responsibilities.”
Firsdon believes that college students’ need for counseling services will continue to rise.
“I definitely think it will continue to go up, and then that’s pretty standard nationally as well,” Firsdon said. “The more that we’re talking about mental health issues, and the more commonplace, that is the more people are coming in to seek services.”
Firsdon adds that this isn’t something to be alarmed about, but that it is actually a good thing that students feel comfortable talking about their mental health and looking for help when they need it.