Last Word: Mental Health Matters

Last Word: Mental Health Matters

By Angela Baker, Director of Counseling Services

In our society, the importance of physical health is generally acknowledged and even celebrated. But when it comes to mental health, the attitude is different. Mental health is often stigmatized and ignored. Yet, inevitably, life confronts us with the need to pay attention to our mental health. This is particularly true during college, a time when focusing on mental health becomes especially crucial.

Wilson incorporates mental health care as part of the services provided to our on-campus students. The counseling center offers short-term individual counseling, selective medication management services, and group psychoeducational sessions. All services are free of charge. Center staff includes two licensed and certified professional counselors and a part-time licensed and certified psychiatric nurse practitioner. Graduate studies counseling interns also serve at the Center with close clinical supervision. At one point in Wilson’s history, more extensive group offerings were available. However, increasing mental health needs on campus have resulted in a greater necessity for individual sessions, and in some cases, crisis sessions. A crisis session occurs when immediate safety must be assessed. During the 2022- 2023 academic year, 68 crisis sessions occurred on campus versus 35 such sessions in 2021-2022.

According to a 2023 Forbes article, 60% of college students experience at least one mental health concern while in college. And, nationally, the average waiting time for a regularly scheduled counseling appointment is six months to one year, and up to two years in more rural locations with less access to qualified providers. Some of the recent increase in need is due to the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, while others are attributed to more individuals seeking help. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2023 that prior to the pandemic, 1 in 5 adults in the country (approximately 43.8 million people) were living with a mental health condition, primarily major depression and generalized anxiety. Data from our counseling center corroborates the study’s findings with similar conditions reported by our students. Concerns expressed in on- campus sessions include (in order of most self-reported reason for seeking services): anxiety, depression, academic stress, trauma, suicidal ideation, and relationship conflict.

Because of its importance, Wilson incorporates mental health care as part of the services provided to students. Beginning with the 2024 spring semester, through a partnership with Virtual Care Group (VCG), we now offer students enrolled in Wilson College Online free telehealth services, including traditional counseling and crisis services, when warranted. VCG provides students access to a nationwide network of diverse licensed providers. This is an important distinction because state licensing laws prohibit Wilson’s counseling center from offering services outside of Pennsylvania.

In addition to expanding counseling services to our non-traditional students, the college recently invited staff and faculty to participate in a nationally recognized Mental Health First Aid certification program. This program provides training so individuals can recognize and respond to distressed students until professional help can be arranged. Twenty-six Wilson employees are now certified to assist.

While it’s a sometimes-daunting task because the need is so great, Wilson is evolving its support systems to meet the requirements of students mental health. Just another example of how our dedicated faculty and staff are rising to the challenge, ensuring each student, whether in-person or virtual, can truly succeed – academically, emotionally, and physically. Yes, mental health matters!


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