Siena College's Student Newspaper

Opinion

Mental Health Mindfulness

As someone who has struggled with their mental health recently, I was disappointed to see the decline in The Counseling Center services. I did not know that I would even be able to return my junior year of college because of the profound struggle I have been facing. During the summer, I began to decrease an incredibly strong antidepressant. The result of coming off of this medication leads to panic attacks, brain zaps and nausea. That is just a few of the long list of the withdrawal symptoms. Though my personal life and health have not been the best, I still wanted to continue my studies. I did not want anything to get in the way of my academics.
As I said, coming back into this semester has been hard for a number of reasons so to learn I would only be allowed ten sessions, I was devastated to say the least. Although I live in the area, finding a therapist is nearly impossible. Being in college takes up most of my time and having a therapist on campus has been very convenient. If I needed to see someone outside of the college setting, I would have to go out of my way and it would take away from my studies. Although mental health is incredibly important, I tend to put other aspects of my life before it. This is something I have had to change recently. Yet not everyone can go off campus if one needs to.
The way in which Siena has gone about treating mental health issues has been problematic. I have noticed that the paperwork involved in intake is to assess how long it will take to “fix” one. Yet there is no fix. Mental illness is an ongoing battle that often needs constant attention. A fellow Siena student advised, “The problem with the counseling available at Siena, is that they’re trying to treat in the quickest amount of time they can, due to limited resources and few available counselors.” They went onto say, “If this is all that’s available to students due to a lack of counselors then more funds need to go to the department to get more counselors because what could possibly be more important to Siena than the mental health of Siena’s students?” They raised fair questions that I have been eager to answer. Although it may not be a quick process, I have been relentless with solutions that need to be resolved to better support the students at Siena.
When I sat down with Dr. Nate Pruitt, the Director of the Counseling Center, he gave a different perspective on the issue. Although there is a limit to ten sessions, there can be flexibility if one needs it. He had seen that only 10% of students utilized the ten sessions and recorded that the average amount of times one goes to the counseling center is five times. He optimistically noted that there has been a reduced wait time, for a student facing distressing issues was seen. As well, the topic of group discussion was brought up. The Counseling Center is excited to introduce new opportunities in which one can receive support. Emily Wallsh, a mental health counselor, will soon be providing a group session focusing on relationships and issues involving that topic. Although there is not a set date that the group will be led, she is hoping it will be sometime this month.
Kate Burns, the Director of Health Promotion, provides group support as well. Her office created a psychoeducational skill building group program called “wellness sessions.” It is here that students teach their peers how to deal with life stressors effectively. To support students on World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10, Burns and her fellow colleagues will be in the Student Sarazen Center.
If you or anyone you know is struggling on campus, The Counseling Center is a free and safe place to speak with a professional. To schedule an appointment call 518-783-2342. For more information about The Office of Health Promotion, you can call Kate Burns at 518-783-6209 or contact her by email at kkaufmanburns@siena.edu.