Student demand for counseling services increase, CSU Health Network expands

Nataleah Small

In recent years, the CSU Health Network has experienced an increase in student demand for counseling services.

According to Janelle Patrias, Manager of Mental Health Initiatives for the CSU Health Network, 18 percent of students at the University utilize counseling services. This number has been trending upwards on the CSU campus and across the nation, Patrias said.

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In order to accommodate these needs, the University has increased the counseling resources made available to students.

Resources include a network of counselors specializing on a wide range of issues, the You@CSU portal and the construction of the new Health Network building.

Approximately 70 members of the counseling staff are available to meet with students seeking help, according to Patrias. The staff includes full time counselors, trainees and academic-year counselors.

The ratio of counselors to students at CSU is 1 to 640. Director of Counseling Services Susan MacQuiddy called this an “impressive ratio,” in an email to the Collegian.

While the service is experiencing an increase in demand, Patrias said new staff are hired in a timely manner.

“CSU has a really strong record of adding additional staff to meet the demands of students,” Patrias said.

Several students said they benefited from services provided by the counseling center.

Lange Simmons, physics and math double major, said that the majority of his experiences with the counseling center were positive.

“(Counseling resources) aren’t just for when you’re … in a crisis,” Simmons said. “I feel like a lot of students could benefit even if they’re not in … an emergency state of mental health.”

Stephanie Thompson, biology major, said she was satisfied with the “accommodating” and “helpful” resources provided by the counseling center, and that said she valued the one-on-one sessions she spent with her counselor.

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“It was cool getting that face to face time talking,” Thompson said. “It was cool because she could read my facial expressions … it would help bring things out.”

Although Simmons and Thompson both agreed that the counseling center can get busy later on in the semester, neither complained about waiting to receive service.

“They’ve been pretty good about keeping a regular schedule going,” Simmons said.

The center has 2-3 staff on-call during business hours, MacQuiddy wrote.

“We are always available to see someone immediately or with just a brief wait the same day,” MacQuiddy wrote. “If a student is in crisis though, we will make sure that they have a follow-up plan with the on-call counselor or someone else on our staff.”

The University began piloting You@CSU in the fall of 2015 to meet the needs of the student body. You@CSU is an interactive online portal associated with the CSU Health Network that connects students to social and academic information, tools and resources. Patrias said the portal focuses on three different aspects of well-being: succeed, thrive and matter.

Succeed provides students with access to academic and career support. Thrive focuses on the student’s physical and mental health. Matter helps students find purpose, meaning and places to connect on campus.

The portal was officially launched February 2016 and has gained momentum in the past year.

“You@CSU is not intended to be an alternative to talking to a counselor,” Patrias said. “We want students to have digital tools that they can use whenever, wherever they like. We also strongly endorse students to access counseling services when they need it.”

The increase of demand for counseling services will also be addressed by the $59 million CSU Health and Medical Center being built on Prospect and College.

The new 113,000 square foot building will better accommodate the needs of students seeking counseling services and create more job opportunities for the CSU community, Patrias said.

“The increase in student space will make room for more peer educators, student advocates and counseling assistants,” Patrias said.

The CSU Health and Medical Center reached the halfway point in construction on Aug. 2 and is expected to open the summer of 2017.

Collegian reporter Nataleah Small can be reached at news@collegian.com or on twitter @nataleahjoy.