Students increasingly consult counseling center

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The UAF Health and Counseling Center has seen a rise in student use according to Bonnie Brody, associate director of counseling at the center.

“There’s typically a spike after a death or any other type of trauma,” Brody said. “For example after the avalanche last year, and the shooting at the Cutler apartments—people who are even not directly involved, but could have been there and they get scared for their safety. Their world view is not as stable as they thought it was.”

While these jumps are expected after traumas and during difficult times of the school year, specifically the time leading up to finals week, this increased use of mental resources has been a growing trend across the country.

Nearly one in six college students is diagnosed and/or treated for anxiety according to a study done in 2015 by the American College Health Association.

“As the stigma for seeking help during emotional crisis goes down, the more people come into the counseling center,” Brody said. “There has been increased use over the last two years. And I attribute that to the lack of stigma as well as an increase in traumas on campus: shootings, knifings, suicides and people feeling like that trauma is causing stressors that are too high for them to handle alone.”

The darkest times of the year, coinciding with finals related stress provides the busiest times of year for the counseling center.

“We’re just slammed,” Brody said. “We’ve been fully staffed but have also seen an increase in use. We’re trying not to have a long waiting list for students to get in.”

The center is staffed with four counselors, one part time and three full time, as well as a panel of doctors and nurse practitioners.

While the university is facing leaner financial times, Brody said the health center does not appear to be facing any future cuts.

The center has two emergency slots each day so that if a student needs counseling right away, they don’t have to wait as long. While these slots help manage the influx of students, those dealing with more day-to-say issues such as test anxiety and other problems sometimes have to wait longer to get in, Brody said.

“I see a lot of people who come in for sexual assault, past trauma, issues that they haven’t reported, but that are still traumatic to them,” Brody said. “Trauma is a very big presenting issue, along with depression and anxiety. There’s also more day-to-day issues like test anxiety, breakups, having procrastinated with school.”

All students taking nine or more on campus credits pay a health center fee that entitles them to five free counseling sessions each semester, with those following only costing each student $25.

“I think students these days are under a lot of stress. Life isn’t as simple as it used to be,” Brody said. “Student mental health is a serious problem. And we need to address it seriously.”

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