According to the American College Health Association, three out of five college students experience “overwhelming anxiety” in their years at a university. While the number of students experiencing issues with their own mental health is concerning, the crusade to remove the stigma and to provide students with services to safely work through these problems is growing.
BGSU’s contribution to this crusade is the Counseling Center, a free service to all those enrolled at the university. Behind the thoroughly modern and comfortable lobby are professionals that are there to provide quality services to those in need of counseling.
“Our mission is to attend to the mental health needs of the BGSU students. So that’s students who come here for services we provide mental health treatment for a variety of concerns. Anxiety, depression, relationship issues adjustments to transition,” Counseling Center Director Garett Gilmer said.
The center also provides resources to help those that think that they are witnessing someone in need. This includes faculty here at the university that would want to have a more involved relationship with their students’ mental health.
“We also serve as consultants and educators for the campus community as a whole, including people who are trying to help students. So we are consultants for faculty or staff or parents or other students who are trying to offer support to students that they are worried about,” Assistant Director Stefani Hathaway said.
Students generally are introduced to the services of the center through the walk-in hours that are held weekly. The Counseling Center tries to provide an environment during these walk-in hours that is affirming and as comfortable as possible.
“The most common thing for someone to experience during walk-in would be a kind of intake process, where we find out about what is going on with the person, talk about what their concerns are and how they are functioning. We screen for a few key issues, and then we help them figure out what kinds of services or referrals make sense to them,” Hathaway said.
The eventual goal of having the walk-in hours is to provide students with a pathway to continual sessions. One of the ways that students can better work through some of their issues with the counselors is to go back for repeated sessions with the same counselor.
Sophomore communication major Owen Ehinger, who has used the center since the beginning of his sophomore year, said there is no question about the benefits of repeated sessions for him.
“I think you have to go through it a couple times before it actually becomes worth it. Because the first, and even the second, session you’re just trying to lay the groundwork for who you are,” Ehinger said. “You have to kind of push through the first couple of weeks before you start to see results.”
However, that is not the only option for those seeking help.
“Some people come for walk-ins and they’re not interested in any kind of ongoing services, they just want to consult about a thing right now,” Hathaway said.
Despite the center’s insistence that repeat sessions do wonders, the logistics of the counseling center make the goal of weekly visits for clients a tough one to meet.
“I was going consistently weekly through September mid-October, then it was like every other week and it's becoming larger spans between sessions,” Ehinger said.
The center, due to a smaller staff than would be ideal, are forced to have those longer times between sessions. Ideally for the center, more counselors and resources would make the walk-in process go much smoother.
“That is frustrating to the person who came in wanting to start services, that's frustrating for us because we weren’t able to meet that request at that time. But the vast majority of those students do come back and eventually get started,” Gilmer said.
Even though the center struggles to provide support for all that need it at all times, the center works closely with the university and other resources on campus to create a positive mental health environment outside of the center.
“Our job is to make ourselves not necessary,” Gilmer said.
Despite the stresses of the job at the center, those involved feel that it is their duty to help those in need at the university.
“I get to be with people as they are talking about things that are really important and meaningful in their lives. I get to be part of it as they are growing and wrestling with stuff and it’s an honor,” Hathaway said.