Student Life Column

Student Association’s mental health report could fill the resource gap at Syracuse University

In writing a report that details specific changes to mental health resources at Syracuse University, the Student Association is making good on its promise to improve mental health at the university, and is taking the initiative to fill a vacancy on SU’s campus.

It’s strange that a campus as progressive as SU’s doesn’t have more accessible mental health services. SU has a higher student-to-councilor ratio than some of its peer institutions, which is not necessarily anyone’s fault, but the result of a lack of resources and accessibility to them. Because of these lapses, it’s time for SA to propose changes to the university’s current system.

“By drawing greater attention to student mental health and the lack of resources on this campus through the report, we hope that the university community will recognize how important and vital mental health is to a student’s time at Syracuse University,” said Joyce LaLonde, SA vice president, in an email.

SA formed the Mental Health Action Committee to address the issues students face when dealing with the mental health resources on campus. The committee aims to create a peer listening service and a student advisory counsel to the Counseling Center staff; reevaluate the health and wellness fee; hire more counselors, at least two of color; and establish a policy between the Department of Public Safety and the Syracuse Police Department, according to the report.

Some of these goals, especially the DPS-SPD policy and the peer listening service, can help to break down barriers that interfere with a student’s access to mental health resources. The long-term goal of creating a policy between DPS and SPD is hopefully one that SA will prioritize, because eliminating the fear of getting in trouble allows more students to come forward and actively seek help. With the listening service, giving students the opportunity to anonymously talk with each other, instead of professional counselors, would be an approachable and suitable mental health resource as well.

The report includes other proposed improvements to the mental health scene at SU, and the changes have yet to be officially approved. But these changes are feasible because they are minimal and overdue.

“The biggest ask of the report is hiring five to seven more counselors, which may not happen immediately, but we have had many productive conversations with administrators about the need for this and are hopeful that even this recommendation can happen,” LaLonde said.

One of the committee’s short-term goals is to update the university’s mental health services website and establish a direct line of communication between students and the Counseling Center via the Student Advisory Council, according to the report. This would be a tangible way to increase accessibility, since one of the most significant obstacles to getting help for mental health can be misinformation.

“If I could only achieve one thing in terms of mental health at this university, I would want mental health to be at the forefront of decision-making on all levels,” LaLonde said.

For too long, mental health has taken a backseat at due to a lack of resources. Although the gap can’t be blamed on any individual or group, positive change can still be made: If the proposals in SA’s report are implemented, SU could overcome its lag in mental health services and meet the expectations of a supportive university.

Aishwarya Sukesh is a freshman magazine journalism and psychology dual major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at aksukesh@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @AishuSukesh.

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