By Carina Sorrentino
The addition of The Wicker Wellness Center to Union’s campus has drastically improved the way students take advantage of the health services being provided. The Counseling Center may be one of the college’s most utilized resources, as they see about 50 percent of every graduating class at some point during their time at school.
Director of the Counseling Center Marcus Hotaling notes that there has been a steady increase in the amount of students seeking their services in the last five years. “Five years ago we had 139 coming in the fall, last year it was 183, and this year around 236, and we feel that it is because of the success of the Wicker Wellness Center.”
Wicker is located at a more convenient location than Silliman, being more accessible to those who live up and down campus, as well as off. Hotaling stated, “It’s a much nicer building, it is close to the gym, and most importantly there is a reduction in stigma.” The new look for the building has made it much more appealing and friendly for those who need to spend time there frequently. With mental health disorders becoming more commonly addressed and accepted, now is the time to provide those who are affected with the best level of care possible.
This increase in students making appointments with the center prompted the staff to sit down and generate a way to improve outreach to the student body. Of those who visit the center, it was gathered that 20 to 25 percent utilize weekly sessions for the entire year. Because there are so many who have sporadic visitations and few who are in need of the appointments on a regular basis, the staff made the decision to reconsider offering an unlimited number of sessions.
Now, students will be allowed 15 sessions for the entirety of the year. Because this change is taking place currently in the middle of the year, 12 will be allotted for the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year. Hotaling commented, “Last year we found that a lot of students would call and feel they were bothering us because we were so booked. This policy is a way to solve that problem and reach as many students who want to come here.” In any case of emergency or crisis situations however, no student would ever be turned away because they have used all of their appointments.
Hotaling remarked that this program is running in accordance to policies at peer schools to Union, such as Colgate and Siena. “Our goal was to be at the top tier of that list by offering 15 total sessions, and that is the most that any other college similar to us will do.” The policy will run this year, being assessed by staff as well as students. Hotaling stated that focus groups will be held to gauge student reactions and the Counseling Center will be open to suggestions for change.
College is a stressful environment in which it is sometimes necessary to reach out to a third party for guidance and help. With increased numbers of students in higher education developing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, there is a need for faculty to commit resources and time to make such treatment easier. The campus community is fortunate to have health professionals that want to service as many students in the most effective manner.
Ultimately, the main goal is to make counseling even more accessible. The center does not want anyone to see the limitation as a negative addition, but rather as a means to better the quality and quantity of output. “Students feel more comfortable here now, it is more like a doctor’s office, as well as accepting and safe … And that is fantastic that they feel this service can provide them with something while they are here.”