As we approach the halfway point of National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 8–12), it’s necessary to look at one of the major health crises plaguing college students: mental illness.
Across college campuses, the number of students seeking treatment for mental illnesses like anxiety disorders and depression has risen, as reported by ABC News in 2019. Students entering college with a mental illness will have their problems exacerbated in such a stressful environment.
Much of this stress comes from the unique challenges of our generation, as detailed by former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in Foreign Affairs. We’ve only known a post-9/11 world of hyper-security, mass shootings and the Great Recession. And on top of other stressors like climate change and the most recent presidential election, it’s no wonder why we’re in this crisis.
With all of this information in mind, it’s downright irresponsible that LMU’s Student Psychological Services (SPS) hasn’t been given more attention and resources.
SPS is LMU’s on-campus support system for mental health, led by an invaluable team of psychologists and therapists ready to help LMU students. They provide services like individual therapy sessions, information about suicide prevention and the Wellness Educator program to raise awareness about mental health topics like depression, body image issues, PTSD, etc.
Unfortunately, many students aren’t able to receive the help SPS tries to provide for them, mostly because of the high demand for said help.
“I’ve heard last semester there was a super [long] waiting list,” said Dean Jackman, a sophomore screenwriting major. “I heard people [who] said they couldn’t get in because there [were] too many people there who were at risk.”
Many other students I spoke to brought up horror stories of being unable to connect with SPS because of a backlog of at-risk students. That backlog can have real consequences.
During the 2018-2019 school year, the undergraduate population was 6,557 students. Assume that 12.1 percent of those same students have "seriously considered suicide any time within the last 12 months," as based on findings from a 2018 report by the American College Health Association. In other words, that’s roughly 793 undergraduate students. Possibly hundreds of vulnerable people in need of someone to pull them out of a dark situation might not be getting the help they need.
It isn’t as if the University doesn’t have the money to fix these issues. Not to beat a dead horse, but what was the benefit of the logo redesign from almost a year ago? Unless a majority of incoming freshmen thought that a cool logo was the reason they came here, then there is no reason why that money couldn’t have gone toward something that actually attracts people to this community.
Any future student who might be privately struggling with depression, anxiety or another mental illness is going to be looking for support on campus that could guide them through what may be one of the most challenging periods of their lives. Whether a school does or doesn’t provide above-average mental help might be the deciding factor.
“Maybe [they could make it] a bigger part of the school because I know there are a lot of people who need help mentally,” suggested Kyra Westerberg, a senior animation major.
LMU is more than able to appropriately respond to students' problems and needs. The influx of more freshmen than previous years prompted the University into building new, greener high-density housing.
Students aren’t asking for anything much; this is about our community’s health. We’re asking that a vital resource for hundreds of our classmates be treated with the same attention and respect that any other issue would be, or even more.
This is the opinion of Cristobal Spielmann, a sophomore environmental science major from Brentwood, Tennessee. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email firstname.lastname@example.org.