How can we improve student counseling?


Mary-Stella Mangina, Arts & Entertainment Editor

During an age in which the public is becoming incrementally more aware of ailments relating to the mind, I often worry that mainstream dialogue surrounding mental health awareness is both a blessing and a curse. While I am glad that issues with ties to society’s cognitive wellness are undergoing destigmatization, I am disappointed to see that the reality of their widespread nature is rarely handled in the most appropriate way.

According to research conducted by Boston University, mental health disorders among American college students are spiking in prevalence. University undergraduates in the United States are subject to a number of high-stress situations, but our struggles do not go unrecognized. Nobody is contesting the reality of college-age students’ collective grapple with anxiety. If one is unsure as to whether or not psychological problems find disproportionate prominence on college campuses, they need only look to the facts- three-fourths of lifelong cerebral difficulties manifest in victims when by the time they are 24 years old.

Unfortunately, awareness of mental illnesses does not automatically equal proper care. It seems to me that college counseling clinics across the U.S., that of the University of North Alabama included, should be more comprehensive in their attempts to assuage students’ psychological unrest.

Considerable is the amount of students who have expressed to me their disappointment with Student Counseling Services at UNA. They do not think their needs are being considered to the fullest extent, but they attend sessions with UNA professionals regularly because they see doing so as the only alternative to costly clinical therapy.

In my experience, counseling, especially when it concerns adolescents, is characterized all too often by a one-size-fits-all approach to therapeutic practices. It is as if those whose jobs it is to help us manage our stress levels view our mental states as existing on a sliding scale. If a student’s troubles lie somewhere in between nonexistent and textbook atypical, counselors are unable to effectively combat them. Unfortunately, disturbances in our emotional well-beings can not be pinpointed and purged so easily. What constitutes a mundane Monday afternoon for a peer of mine may seem to me insurmountably overwhelming.

Sometimes I feel as if my insecurities mature as I age. The girlish notion I have always had that I will not be valued unless I look attractive is evolving into the more womanly idea that my surface-level intelligence, as soon as it’s been engaged, gives way to vapid single-mindedness.

I refuse to let my anxieties be tossed into the all-encompassing basket of general low self-esteem, only to be remedied with a kitschy list of the things I like about myself. Young women’s self images are influenced by an abundance of internal and external factors. The nonsensical notions we are socially conditioned to live by must be taken into account by those who wish to understand our psyches, as must our individualized traits, trials and traumas.

Details of the phrenic fuel that makes people tick are hazy. Therefore, it does not make sense that our mental health disorders should be treated in the same manner as our broken arms; there is no such thing as a metaphysical cast. Treatment, as it pertains to mental health, needs to be highly personalized.