Lack of adequate funding for CMHC harms students

Olivia Griffin

Suicide currently ranks as the third-leading cause of death among traditional college students. The University and the Counseling and Mental Health Center operate projects that include Suicide Prevention Week, the Behavioral Concerns Advice Line and ongoing counseling services in response to this. Although these services provide critical tools in spreading awareness, more reform must occur to address the barriers students face in accessing mental health care through the university.

The price of individual counseling sessions rose from $5 to $10 last year in response to budgetary concerns. While CMHC still charges students less for counseling than most other counselors, price increases discourage students in need from seeking treatment. The price difference, though small, adds up and encourages cash-strapped, ramen-eating college students not to pursue counseling due to the financial burden it poses.

The CMHC also places a limit on the number of appointments available to each student. Students are referred to off-campus therapists after completing six short-term counseling sessions per semester or surpassing the two semester limit on CMHC usage for students. The average cost of a session with a psychologist in Austin approximately ranges from $75 to $120, which inhibits students’ ability to continue treatment after finishing their CMHC appointments. Additionally, students that do not own a car lack a reliable means of transportation and struggle to make it to regular off-campus counseling appointments.

Although CMHC strives to serve the needs of all students, too many students with too little resources, staff and funding creates a backlog of students, prohibiting students from using CMHC as a long-term treatment option. Unfortunately, depression and anxiety constitute chronic diseases that require ongoing professional treatment over the course of several years, not six forty-five minute sessions at the CMHC.

Decreased funding and overwhelmed staff create barriers for students struggling with mental illness. Students sometimes wait for up to a month to see a counselor for mental health concerns. One junior notes that she resorted to calling the suicide hotline as a plea for help when she realized she would have to wait several weeks before the next available appointment with a CMHC counselor. Though not suicidal, she struggled with severe depression that inhibited her school performance and quality of life and could not wait any longer to see a counselor.

Depression, anxiety and suicide constitute some of the most prevalent public health issues plaguing college students. We spend almost $1.5 million on a dumb canoe statue, yet our mental health care system remains so underfunded that it fails to meet the needs of our students. Shame on us.

Griffin is a government and Plan II junior from Dallas. Follow her on Twitter @oglikesdogs.