Students suffer from lack of mental heathcare counseling


Photo by Amy Pachala

Audrey Tobola Escano, Reporter

  It has been more than a week since the semester started at CSU Bakersfield, and psychology counselors are already overtaken by students who need an appointment. With more than 10,000 students on campus and only 5 full-time counselors at the Counseling Center, students who need help are being asked to wait.

  According to the National Survey of Counseling Center Directors, the recommended ratio is 1 counselor per 1,500 students. If the university were to follow this recommandation, the Counseling Center would need to hire at least two more counselors to provide the appropriate help to CSU Bakersfield’s students.

  Janet Millar, a licensed marriage and family therapist, has worked at the CSUB Counseling Center since 1999. 20 years ago, students could get 16 sessions per year. This year, it’s about four to six sessions per semester. Millar said, “We are understaffed. We want the students to tell to President Zelezny and the vice-president ‘We want more counselors.’” Millar goes on to say that only students can actually make things change by expressing their needs, because no matter what the Counseling Center wants to put in place, only students have the power to be heard and get funds.

  The Counseling Center has planned a meeting for Sep. 9 to discuss what they can implement to help students. Counselors and faculty will meet and talk about service delivery process, individual help, access to workshops for anxiety, and about the Let’s Talk program and program shifting.

  Although there are 10 crisis appointments available per week (one every morning and one every afternoon on weekdays), to get a regular appointment, according to Trinity Brown, ASC, “you have to wait one or two weeks.” If students try to get an appointment from mid-term, “it’s more likely to be four weeks,” says Brown.

  The Counseling Center does not only need funds to hire counselors, but also to find solutions to help more students at the same time. Demand to see a counselor has increased so much that regular and individual therapy cannot be offered to everyone requesting that service. Nationwide, the percentage of students seeking appointments at school counseling centers between 2009-10 and 2014-15 has risen 30%, according to the American Psychological Association.

  Vanessa Gonzalez is a kinesiology senior. Even though she has regular appointments at the Counseling Center, she says “It will be great to have appointments more often.”

  Ryan Taylor, a fourth year student in psychology who has made his first appointment, said, “As a psychology major, I encourage having more people available to talk to.”

  While the lack of psychology counselors is a priority for the Counseling Center, it is not the only issue they face. “We are very limited. There is not enough space,” says Millar, commenting on the need for additional office space for a larger counseling staff.

  “There is a lot of pressure to provide mental health care,” says Millar. According to her, CSU Bakersfield is in conversation with Kern County to see if they can provide resources, for mental health care or help to build a larger office space.