As students head back to campuses this fall, many are carrying the weight of the last 18 months on top of the stresses that come with a new academic year. Talking through these issues with a licensed therapist can have many benefits.
A recent survey by Inside Higher Ed revealed 65 percent of the college participants rated their mental health as “fair to poor” but only 15 percent are seeking help through services provided by their campuses.
“Therapy, counseling treatment is still surrounded with much stigma,” explained Claudia Cioni, a clinical mental health counselor at the Center for Health and Counseling at Salt Lake Community College.
According to Cioni, clients often wait to seek therapy until they are “emotionally overwhelmed,” which she described as “like being in the middle of a tornado … you only see things swirling around and don’t have perspective of what is outside.”
Feeling emotionally overwhelmed hinders good solution seeking, according to Cioni.
“The mind-brain has mechanisms to protect us from being overwhelmed and it starts by reducing its own capacities, like cell phones when they go into emergency functioning – close apps to continue operating but minimally,” explained Cioni.
Cioni continued, “Anxiety and depression reduce our capacity to learn, retain and reproduce information, making school performance more difficult.”
Cioni acknowledged that COVID has put many in “survival mode.”
“We go [to therapy] when much of living is compromised and many areas of our lives are damaged already, unfortunately; and this condition makes healing longer and painful,” said Cioni.
Reasons for not seeking therapy include lack of access, stigma surrounding mental health, and financial burden.
“I’ve always hesitated to seek out counseling because of cost,” remarked SLCC nursing student Tamra Rachol. “Unfortunately, that only compounded my issues and I found unhealthy ways to cope with the stress in my life.”
Rachol took advantage of the services provided by the Center for Health and Counseling at Salt Lake Community College during the pandemic.
“Now that we’re back on campus, sessions are just $15, anywhere else it can run you $80-$150 an hour. I’m so grateful SLCC offers this service for a price I can afford,” said Rachol, noting that she has made taking care of her mental health a priority.
Counseling sessions are available to all students and insurance is not required.
SLCC alum Eric Jensen, who transferred to the University of Utah last year, appreciated the accessibility of counseling services available to students.
“For me, knowing that the counseling center was there … got me in the door,” said Jensen. “I think a lot of students don’t use it because they are hesitant about how it works … all the same rules apply, it’s all confidential, nothing goes to the school from the counselor.”
Jensen said seeing a therapist at SLCC helped influence his behaviors elsewhere and noted that going to therapy becomes like any skill, “the more you do it, the more you kind of get out of it.”
Jensen credits the sessions at SLCC for helping him identify some of his struggles and learning strategies to get through them.
“You know, college is stressful. Students have a lot going on … and having someone to run those things by and someone to talk to was just really helpful,” said Jensen. “It gives you another person who’s in your corner and helping you get through college – which is hard. It’s just good to have an outside perspective that can kind of be a sounding board for things.”
Since leaving SLCC, Jensen has continued therapy through an independent counselor.
Rachol has utilized therapy on and off for most of her adult life and thinks it will always have a place in her life.
“It provides a perspective that I can’t find anywhere else,” said Rachol. “The counseling center has helped me work through past trauma. They have given me the tools I need in order to cope with my anxiety and triggers. Not only do I see a difference but so does my family.”
The Center for Health and Counseling offers students low-cost sessions with licensed providers to help with issues including anxiety, depression, grief, sexual trauma, medication management and more. The $15 fee covers a one-hour session, however, students experiencing financial hardships can apply for a fee waiver.
The center provides both telehealth and in-person appointments. Masks are required in all common areas of the health center. For locations, appointments or to learn more about available services, visit them online or call 801-957-4268.
Resources for LGBTQ+ students
Mental Health America recently reported 39 percent of people identifying as LGBTQ+ suffered from mental health struggles in the past year. The Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, located at South City Campus, serves Womxn and LGBTQ+ students and offers multiple resources.
“The GSSRC is actively engaged in making the space one where students who are struggling can feel safe, welcome, and open,” said Peter Moosman, the resource coordinator for the GSSRC. Programs include the weekly LGBTQ+ support group Prism, the Queer Student Association and Hit the GAS – a book-club type discussion group looking at gender and sexuality in film.
“Being around Queer people is one of the best things for my mental health,” said student leader, Lauren Hamilton-Soule (they/she). “We have lots of resources, but we also have space for you to just exist, study, and get away for a little bit.”
Live on, Bruins
As part of Suicide Awareness Month, the Center for Health and Counseling is hosting “Live on, Bruins” on Sept. 14 to spotlight state and college-related suicides. The program offers suicide awareness training and resources to those struggling with mental health. The event will take place in the Student Event Center located on the Taylorsville Redwood Campus from 11:30-1:30 p.m. For more details, click here.