You’re right. Auburn needs more mental health counselors. Mental health has become a bigger issue now than ever before, particularly for our generation.
More Auburn students than we realize experience mental health-related issues such as chronic anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and eating disorders, to name a few.
According to the National Institution for Mental Health, one in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness.
While Auburn is not the only institution fighting this battle, we do have the capacity to improve our support services and treatment options for students.
According to figures recommended by the International Association of Counseling Services, a university with a full-time enrollment of 22,915 should have between 20-25 full-time counselors available to serve students.
Currently, Auburn’s Student Counseling Services maintains just 11 full-time counselors, leading to the waitlist that was referenced in last week’s “Letter to the Editor.” This deficit has resulted in a large number of Auburn students who quietly suffer from untreated mental health issues every semester.
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The logical question that immediately follows is, “What is the University doing to address this?” Understanding the importance of mental health to Auburn students, the Student Government Association initiated a Task Force on Mental Health this past August.
The Task Force is charged with identifying key areas of short- and long-term needs for Auburn University students as they relate to mental health and providing recommendations for necessary resources to better support students.
In addition to undergraduate and graduate students, the Task Force includes representatives from various units including the Division of Student Affairs, EAMC, the Auburn Police Department, several academic departments, academic advisers, the Provost’s Office, several faith-based organizations and off-campus mental health providers.
As the group continues its work, significant progress has already been made toward assessing our current programmatic needs and determining where we can strategically place resources. More importantly, however, this process has initiated a much-needed dialogue on what mental health means to our University and how we truly define student success.
Simply stated, without proper support, students have a tougher time achieving their academic goals and truly succeeding when they live with a mental illness.
Listening to so many students on this topic in recent weeks has been the most profound part of this process, and I am encouraged that the work currently being done will benefit all Auburn students —both now and in the future.
By the end of the semester, the Task Force hopes to submit a final report to the SGA and University’s administration that outlines its findings and recommendations.
However, this issue will long exceed the work of a Task Force and the SGA. It is crucial that, as a campus community, we continue to openly discuss mental health issues so that we can take away the stigmas and better support our fellow students in seeking the help they need.
Let’s be the Auburn Family that walks alongside each other and truly embodies the Auburn Creed: “I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid.”
Walker Byrd is Auburn University's SGA President and a senior in finance.
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