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Huber: CSU Counseling should let you make appointments online

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 4 people suffer from mental illness over the course of their life. A study in 2016 found that 39% of college students struggled with mental health.

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To combat this, Colorado State University’s Health Center provides counseling services, which are largely paid for using student fees. Personally, this is something I’ve known about but have never taken advantage of despite strongly considering it in the past. However, Counseling Services doesn’t offer students the option to make online appointments, which is a problem. 

The process generally works like this: A student wishing to make a counseling appointment goes in to Counseling Services during drop-in hours, meets with an on-call counselor to create a wellness plan and then proceeds to follow this plan, which could include attending scheduled appointments in the future.

It sounds good in theory, but for busy students — especially those suffering from mental illness — it can be hard to fit this plan into daily life.

The Health Center is open for drop-in hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and Tuesdays from 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. This amounts to just over 31 hours a week.

At CSU, the average student should expect to take 15 credit hours a semester, and two to three hours should be planned to prepare for each credit hour. This comes out to be between 45 and 60 hours a week of schoolwork or between five and 20 hours more than the average full-time job.

On top of this, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, around 43% of all full-time college students were employed in 2017. In 2013, CSU reported that between 7,500 and 8,000 students were hired by on-campus employers. The same NCES report indicated that the average number of hours worked was between 20-34 hours.

Assuming that the average student sleeps eight hours a night (which is generous, in my opinion), works 20 hours a week, is enrolled in 15 credit hours and spends two hours preparing for each class hour, they have about 47 hours left over.

Despite the fact that many students are busy and potentially unable to attend counseling services’ walk-in hours, CSU does not offer appointment scheduling online or via text.”

Those remaining 47 hours are meant to cover time spent participating in student organizations, eating, taking care of personal tasks and socializing. This also includes finding time to visit the CSU Health Center during walk-in hours.

As an example, because of my schedule, there are only 4 1/2 hours in a typical week where I could potentially attend walk-in hours. In previous semesters, I haven’t been able to attend any because of how my work and courses line up. I would be surprised if I was the only student in this position.

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Despite the fact that many students are busy and are potentially unable to attend Counseling Services’ walk-in hours, CSU does not offer appointment scheduling online or via text.

According to their website, “We want students to know that we carefully considered an online and text scheduling option but decided against it for a couple of reasons. Since there is a large demand for counseling, an initial appointment with an ongoing counselor may be 2-3 weeks in the future at some points during the semester. By asking students to come in to see us for a brief screening appointment, we are able to problem solve interim solutions or make a more immediate plan for those in crisis.”

Counseling Services claims that their walk-in hours allow for more personalized help, which is valid, but any help is often better than no help.

Often, for those struggling with mental illness, the choice to get help or go to therapy is a difficult one. CSU Counseling Services should do everything that they can to help ease that choice, and by only offering in-person scheduling, they are doing the opposite.

Research indicates that 44% of patients prefer doctors that offer online scheduling — I know I do. When I’ve considered counseling during far more stressful times in the past, the lack of scheduling options prevented me from doing it.

According to their website, the goal of CSU’s Counseling Services is to “help get (students) connected to the appropriate services to address (their) concerns” — online scheduling options would be a tremendous step in accomplishing that.

Allie Huber can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @a11iehuber.

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