Editorial: Help us improve, mentally

Our View


Many facilities for treating mental health on Illinois college campuses lack funding or training.


Mental strain is normal and some have psychiatric needs. More funding must be acquired to provide students with needed support.

Many people say high school and college will be the best times of our lives. However, that cannot be more wrong. Yes, partying is more socially acceptable during these times, but our mental maturity and founding values are still developing.

More than a dozen students can be seen in the Cyber Lounge in the 7th Street Underground or the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union or in the Greg Triad computing lab at any point of the day or night stressing over final exams. Not to mention the social lives we have now would put some of our parents in their graves when they were our ages.

Sex has become more acceptable in today’s society and often becomes a place of weakness for certain people. Drug and alcohol abuse is not only funny in the media, but also prevalent in certain high school and college demographics.

Some students work full-time jobs while taking 15 to 18 credit hours per semester, which leads to intense forms of stress. There are even college students who are raising children while going to school and holding a part-time job.

Let’s not forget about the economy and how many of us won’t have jobs waiting for us upon graduation. The thought of having to pay off debt while working for minimum wage can bring out the worst in any of us.

Being a college student in today’s world is not easy, and we deserve more help from our universities.

While we struggle in daily dilemmas, those decisions often build our core values and set precedence for when we have to make similar choices in the future.

There is nothing wrong with struggling to do the right thing, get the best grades or find the best-suited job. We’re in college to learn how to become well-rounded individuals, and how you live your life contributes to how productive you are at the jobs you’re working toward.

Asking for help can make a world of difference. Scheduling an appointment with the Counseling Center doesn’t make you any less of a person. Everyone needs guidance or a mature person to talk through a situation with from time-to-time.

Many fears have also arisen about campus safety relating to mental health.

According to InsideHigherEd.com, following the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, people now believe there are more mental health disorders among college students.

Treatment for these disorders such as psychiatric, personality and substance abuse are not commonly provided to students, according to the higher education Web site.

But whether it is a disorder or seasonal depression, options are available for Eastern students, but definitely need improved upon.

According to a 2004 survey by the American College Health Association, nearly half of all college students report feeling so depressed at some point in time that they have trouble functioning, and 14.9 percent meet the criteria for clinical depression.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for those aged 15-24, according to the American Psychiatric Association, and the second leading cause of death of college students.

Since 2006, Eastern has added two full-time counselor positions, increased the hours of part-time psychiatrists, increased the graduate intern staff and increased outreach efforts.

“These initiatives have been extremely successful as demonstrated by a significant increase in the number of our students visiting the Counseling Center,” said Dan Nadler, vice president for student affairs.

The counseling center saw 779 students during the 2005-06 academic year, which was more than 515 students during the 2004-05 year. These figures are drastically up from that of 10 years ago when staffing in the center was relatively similar.

However, many students go without help. While Eastern has some initiative, the whole higher education system needs to improve its efforts toward improving students’ mental health.

One of the few positive things Gov. Rod Blagojevich has done for higher education was commissioning the Campus Safety and Mental Health Taskforce, which had a large component about the state of counseling assistance provided on college campuses in Illinois.

Of the 72 surveyed colleges, only 10 (13.8 percent) reported having campus counseling services at extensive availability, while 41 (56.9 percent) of the institutions reported having moderate availability.

Furthermore, 59 institutions (81.9 percent) reported having crises response teams, 39 institutions (54.1 percent) reported having threat assessment teams and 39 institutions (54.1 percent) reported having emergency review teams.

These figures are startling. Most of the institutions that reported being unprepared are community college campuses, and many representatives from both community colleges and universities reported having conflicts with their decision-making processes because of FERPA liabilities.

This clearly indicates a need for an improved support structure for students who are choosing to better themselves by getting educated.

However, some positives were also reported: 65 institutions (90.2 percent) reportedly do not charge students fees upon utilizing the counseling center, 59 institutions (81.9 percent) reported not having a waiting list for students in-need.

The taskforce had repeated suggestions for increased financial support to mental health facilities on campuses. We agree, and not because there’s any kind of epidemic, but because society seems to be finally accepting indisputable traits that are not the fault of anyone.

How are people supposed to function in society and contribute to a job at their peak efficiency when they struggle just being themselves? We’re working hard day in and day out to become educated enough to become the next leaders of this world, but person discontent or a lack of personal trust can limit our abilities.

Yes, keep the doors to our university open is a big enough problem to handle right now, but increasing financial support and resources toward improving students’ mental health is crucial.