Opinion

My experience in Loyola’s mental health system shows disorder

Courtesy of Loyola Chicago

Loyola students are welcomed with big promises from the university. The school sounds like a resort with assurances of bountiful dining options, a gym and group activities. We know those promises are exaggerated as soon as we spend a week on campus, but the school’s guarantee of mental health support for all students in need is their worst broken commitment.

As we all know, college is an incredibly stressful time in one’s life. The number of students with mental health problems is rising every year, and with it, the need for affordable and flexible support. Loyola is cognizant of this problem and touts extensive options for students, but the truth is more ambiguous.

If you too suddenly find yourself with anxiety, depression or a host of other mental health disorders, like so many young people, your options at Loyola become quite limited. Speaking from my own experience, I started experiencing anxiety and depression my sophomore year. I was confused and not thinking clearly, but I remembered the wellness center offered support.

When I called Loyola’s mental health hotline, I was offered a consultation spot a month from when I needed help. All of the therapists were busy with other students and the one free time slot available was during a class. What was I supposed to do in the meantime?

I waited the month for a spot and I was paired with an excellent social worker. He helped me process these new thoughts and emotions. But Loyola let me down when I needed help the most. 

The school has no way to handle non-emergency, urgent mental health problems, and the Wellness Center can’t handle the volume of students who need help.

This problem isn’t unique to Loyola. The entire country has a problem with access to affordable and flexible mental health support. After my allotted eight appointments with the Wellness Center ran out, I sought out help elsewhere but it proved far too expensive for a college student, even with insurance. Having consistent mental health support is also difficult given the fact that young people move frequently.

 I recently accepted a position with a non-profit, Sound Off, that’s working to change access to mental health. Its focus is specific to veterans, but its model is replicable. Sound Off has created a mobile application that connects veterans to mental health professionals free and anonymously. Privacy is ensured and clients can receive support on their own terms. Programs like this already exist but aren’t widely available.

If Loyola could help connect students with one of these mobile programs, the Wellness Center would be able to provide much needed expanded access to mental health support.

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