We have seen students voice their concerns about the lack of resources to address the mental health crisis in our student body multiple times in this publication. Students have referenced a variety of statistics; suicide is the second-leading cause of death in college-age students in America. Students have called out the stigma associated with mental health that still permeates our campus. Students have shared their own personal stories about their battles with different mental health conditions. Yet, it does not seem that the university has concentrated on making mental health a priority despite its lasting effects on students.
As members of the BIOL 480-B Introduction to Public Health seminar, we interviewed Binghamton University faculty and staff who have expertise in working with mental health cases on campus. We used their input as a guide to do our own research on how to formulate ideas to help address this growing concern on campus.
We encourage the university administration to consider three goals in addressing mental health on campus:
1. Prioritizing mental health as an area of growth that needs funding and attention. The University Counseling Center does its best to accommodate a student body of our size but it remains a fact that the center is understaffed. Speaking with the University Counseling Center staff, we understand that the UCC has been attempting to expand their services and sustain quality of care. We suggest that the university administration specifically concentrate a portion of its fundraising efforts to expansion of the UCC for services and staff.
2. Having a diverse array of counselors and staff at the University Counseling Center so that students may be able to feel comfortable with professionals to which they can identity with. Binghamton students are a diverse group of students with different socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, and gender, cultural, and ethnic identities. While we do not think quality of care is compromised when a counselor/psychologist/psychiatrist does not reflect a similar identity of the student they are counseling, we do think that students may be more forthcoming and comfortable with UCC staff members that they can identify with. Mental health is shrouded in stigma and when social and cultural barriers arise, this potentially raises the anxiety, stress, and shame a student may feel.
3. Provide staff training to better equip faculty and staff with the tools to properly address students that may be suffering from a mental health issue. Although there are various outlets on the Binghamton University campus geared towards addressing mental health, increasing the tiers of support a student can receive would be more effective.
Binghamton University markets itself as the Premier Public University of the Northeast. Certainly, there has been huge investments in increasing quality of education and resources on campus from renovating old buildings to hiring brilliant professors. However, our students could use the development, funding and effort we see in so many other aspects of the university into promoting an atmosphere on campus in which mental health care is easily accessible and de-stigmatized.
– Aisha Bowen, Integrative Neuroscience, 2015
Deborah Iyiade, Psychology, 2015
Denise Lobo, Biology, 2015
Melissa Luong, Biology and English, 2015