The American Mental Health Crisis (AP)

Overview

Throughout the last few months of my undergraduate college experience I have been conducting research regarding mental health issues within the college population. The purpose of this research was to  highlight what many are referring to as a mental health crisis among this age group and bring about awareness, identify causation and the consequences, discuss commonly used campus services, and lastly, suggest interdisciplinary interventions that universities should invest in to help combat the problem. In addition to this research, for the applied portion of my project, I decided to volunteer my time to the Human Rights Campaign, which is an LGBTQ+ civil rights advocacy organization, and chose to target my own college, Plymouth State University to collect some data from a sample population in correlation to my research and explore the quality of mental health services offered on campus. This data was collected through a survey sent out to the student body, as well as through a counseling center analysis with student interviews and experiences.

Overall, this topic is extremely important because it is an actual problem that America is facing today that not many people are openly discussing. Therefore, with this research and collection of knowledge, I have hopes to bring about awareness and impact others in the same way that this research has impacted me. Ideally, I want to shed some light on the importance of speaking up and out about mental health issues in a positive manner and make people passionate about the subject. The reason that I am so interested in this topic is because mental health issues is something that has impacted me personally throughout my life, as well as affected many of my loved ones. This research perfectly aligns with my interdisciplinary major of Patient Advocacy, which combines health, nursing, psychology, social work, and communications. As a future social worker who wants to specifically focus on mental health, this research is essential to better understand mental health issues as a whole in order to help this population in whatever way that I can.

Check out the research portion of my project here!


Human Rights Campaign Volunteering
Volunteer crew for HRC at Anime Boston on March 31st, 2018

 The first step of my applied project was volunteering my time at the Human Rights Campaign booth at the Anime Boston Convention at the Hynes Convention Center on March 31st, 2018. This was quite a long day as me, and three other volunteers I recruited, left Plymouth early in the morning and didn’t get back until late at night. The three individuals that went with me was Fatima Brees, Rachel Grotheer, and Eliza Brodeur-Fossa, upon arriving we met up with a couple of other volunteers and the volunteer leader that helped make it all happen, Anoush. We volunteered for the entirety of the 2:30pm-8:00pm shift with the duties of sharing HRC resources, signing up new volunteers, and raising money for HRC’s work in protecting LGBTQ+ rights and supporting LGBTQ+ political candidates. It was an extremely busy day as over 22,000 people attend Anime Boston every year. Overall, the experience was incredible and I met a lot of amazing individuals within the LGBTQ+ community, along with their families and general supporters. This portion of my applied project only targeted one population within the overall college population that I mentioned in my research, in addition, I was working with more than just college aged individuals. Despite these factors it was still a beneficial portion to my capstone as a whole as I received the chance of working with an at-risk population and it gave me better insight into the fight surrounding LGBTQ+ equality. This volunteer work ultimately aligned with my research article because as stated, the LGBTQ community is an at-risk group for the development of mental health issues and is included in the individual influences of my research paper.


The Survey

The survey I conducted was completely anonymous and was specifically aimed at current, traditional, or recently graduated, Plymouth State students. To be more specific, Plymouth alumni could take the survey if they graduated within the last five years as a traditional student. The reason for this is because my research has shown significantly increasing trends for self-reported mental health distress over the last decade, therefore, the population of college students that have graduated within this time span will have experienced or witnessed this growing mental health crisis.

Table 1

After all, according to my research, in 2014, first-year college students reported the lowest emotional health in the last twenty-five years. Therefore, these 2014 first-year students are now about to graduate, and I am curious about statistics from the last decade that this population is in the middle of. Starting off with demographics, I had a total of 100 students or alumni answer my 15 question survey. There were a variety of years that participated, but the highest participation level came from seniors at 35% as can be seen by Table 1. Although, there was still a good range of years that participated as 12% were freshman, 19% sophomores, 15% juniors, and 19% alumni. In addition to this, question two collected data in regards to each individuals major, the answers for this varied greatly. The population included majors such as Interdisciplinary Studies, Nursing, English, Social Work, Elementary Education, Graphic Design, Communications, Marketing, Psychology, Criminal Justice, Social Studies Education, Political Science, Music Education, Business Administration/Management, Finance, Adventure Education, Biology, Environmental Science, Anthropology, Sociology, and much more. Therefore, there was a wide range of individuals responding to the survey of all different studies and years.

The next two questions in my survey were have you ever experienced a mental health issue and/or crisis while in college, and do you know anyone in the college population that has a mental health issue or has experienced a mental health crisis? The data collected for these questions was shocking, as 84% of the 100 individuals that took the survey stated that they have personally experienced mental health issues and/or a crisis, while 97% stated that they know somebody who has. This information doesn’t come as too much of a surprise to me because of my experience within the mental health field, I have seen the increase in mental health issues among my peers and in clinical settings. Although, it is still worrisome data and makes me concerned about my fellow Plymouth State peers.

The next set of questions that I asked in my survey targeted possible causation and influences for the development of mental health issues that I uncovered in my research paper, including individual, interpersonal, and institutional factors. The purpose of these questions was to scope out the possible sources of stress and influential factors that Plymouth State students endure which can impact one’s mental health in a negative manner. The first question I asked in this section was “Did you struggle to adapt to college life when you first started?” with the possible answers of not at all, a little, a moderate amount, or a lot. The responses were quite divided as 13% stated not at all, 37% said a little, 24% said a moderate amount, and 26% said a lot. The range of answers shows that Plymouth State students are quite diverse in regards to their transitional abilities, although the majority of the sample population struggles in some way to different degrees.

Table 2

Next, I asked the participants to rate their level of self-esteem, coping mechanisms, and ability to adapt to new situations on a scale of 1-5, one being the lowest. Starting with self-esteem, as can be seen by Table 2, 28% rated their self-esteem as a 2, with 26% in a close second rating their self-esteem as a 3, although there were 18% rating their self-esteem as a 1. Only 6% of the population sample rated their self-esteem as a 5. For coping mechanisms, the majority rated their techniques as a 3, with the next highest answer being a 2. Lastly, for one’s ability to adapt to new situations the majority of the population answered between 2-4, 4 being the highest at 33%, 3 at 26%, and 2 at 23%. Based on this collection of responses, for the factors of level of self-esteem, coping mechanisms, and ability to adapt to new situations, the majority of Plymouth State students in this sample population seem to view themselves and their abilities to handle situations not entirely negative, but also not extremely great. For the most part, everyone in the sample size answered between 2-4, with a select few answering as a 1 or a 5. The answers to this question reflects back to the previous question regarding transitioning into college, where the sample population also had a diverse range of answers. These three factors are influential towards one’s ability to have a smooth transition into a college atmosphere, as it reflects the amount of confidence one has in themselves and ability to handle challenging situations which also may impact one’s mental health.

The next question in the survey was to rate the amount of stress that a variety of factors have had on their life on a scale of 1-5, once again, 1 being the lowest. The factors they were asked to rate included their parents, friends, employment, school politics, major, and academic requirements. According to my research, all of these are factors that the college population may have to deal with and can be quite stressful, and in return, lead to the increased chance of developing mental health issues or experiencing a mental health crisis. The purpose of this question was to determine the levels of stress that these factors may have on Plymouth State students in particular. Starting off with parents, the answers were divided across the board, 16% said 1, 20% said 2, 18% said 3, 19% said 4, and 26% said 5. Therefore, the majority of individuals said that their parents caused them an extreme amount of stress. This data shows that Plymouth State students most likely come from a variety of family dynamics, some that may be more strict or troubled than others causing different degrees in stress. Next, for friends, 17% said 1, 27% said 2, 31% said 3, 15% said 4, and 10% said 5. Once again, responses are quite scattered but the majority of individuals rated their friends in the middle of the stress scale. The reason for these rankings can be due to a variety of issues, whether they fight frequently with their friends or maybe it is just because of the fact that it is the end of the year and everyone is starting to disperse. After all, saying goodbye to senior friends can be quite challenging for many. Next, for work, 13% said 1, 19% said 2, 25% said 3, 27% said 4, and 15% said 5. Work is a major factor in regards to stress for the college population, as many individuals are required to work on top of juggling their academic requirements which can sometimes be impossible. These first three factors also tie into each other, as the typical person’s social network is made up of their family, friends, and work peers. If all three of these factors are bringing in a substantial amount of stress then an individual may be at high risk of developing mental health issues or experiencing a mental health crisis.

The next three factors asked in this question, school politics, one’s major, and academic requirements, relates to institutional influences. For school politics, the majority of participants, at 36%, said that it brought them little to no stress. The rest of the responses were nearly even across the board, 16% said 2, 20% said 3, 14% said 4, and 14% said 5. School politics are decisions that the school is in charge of regarding institutional changes and improvements, such as that of decisions regarding faculty, new policies, and individual major accreditation. The next factor, one’s major, had unsurprising results, 13% said 1, 9% said 2, 30% said 3, 26% said 4, and 21% said 5. Considering the range of academic focuses that participated in the survey, I found this particular data to be intriguing but not at all shocking as college curriculum can be quite challenging no matter what the topic is on. Lastly, academic requirements, such as that of studying and taking exams, also yielded unsurprising results. Only 6% said that the stress level was at a 1, 4% said a 2, 16% said 3, while 37% said 4, and another 37% said 5. This data shows that a variety of individual, interpersonal, and institutional factors can substantially affect one’s stress levels which in my research paper I explained can have a negative impact on an individuals mental health.

Although these first questions offered up an enormous amount of information I also wanted to ask a few specific questions related to the overarching categories (individual, interpersonal, institutional). The first question was are you satisfied with the teaching practices, curriculum, and overall institutional vibes at Plymouth State University? The results were heavily divided, 4% said that they weren’t satisfied at all, 58% said a little, and 38% said a lot. This is an important determinant because if someone is not satisfied with the college they are attending then this can affect their mental health heavily as they may feel they are not doing anything worthwhile with their time or even life. After all, nobody wants to go to a college for four years unsatisfied and graduate feeling like their degree isn’t worth a lot.  In addition, four years is a long time to associate yourself with something that you are unsatisfied with and it can ultimately take a ginormous toll on your mental health.

Table 3

The next three questions were focused on one’s social network in order to gain better insight on how Plymouth State students and alumni feel about their peer group. The first question was are you satisfied with the quality of your social network/peer group? As can be seen in Table 3, 17% stated that they were not satisfied at all, 46% said a little, and 37% said a lot. How one feels about their social network is important to one’s mental health because if they feel that they don’t have a strong support system or nobody that they can confide in during challenging times then they can feel isolated and alone in the world. As humans, developing relationships and having social connections is part of our needs in order to remain psychologically healthy. This sample population of Plymouth State students shows that the majority is satisfied in some way with their peer group, whether a little or a lot, but there is a portion that is not satisfied at all. The next question I asked was are you comfortable with approaching members of your peer group to discuss private matters, such as that of mental health issues. The reason I asked this is because as stated previously, if one feels they have nobody to confide in the world can be quite lonely, especially during hard times.

Matching the results from the first question of this section, 25% stated that they are not comfortable at all with approaching members of their peer group, 42% said only a little bit, and 33% said they are completely comfortable. Taking into consideration that not everybody has strong friend connections, which was depicted in the data, the third question I asked was are you involved in any organizations and/or participate in social activities or events? This question was to determine if those who don’t necessarily have these strong connections still put themselves out into the community and socialize in some form and to see how socially active the sample population is. The results were 73% stating that they are involved in organizations and participate in social events, while 27% do not. Sadly, this data combined with the other three, shows that approximately 25% or less of the sample population is not satisfied with their peer group, will not confide in them, and is potentially not involved in any sort of organizations. Overall, all of the factors discussed within this survey have the ability to negatively impact one’s mental health and can lead to risky behavior. 

The consequences of untreated mental health issues within the college population varies greatly, there is a risk of harm to one’s self or others, along with participation in risky behaviors. The 13th question in my survey focused on these risky behaviors in order to gain insight on what type of activities Plymouth State students may be participating in on a regular basis. These risky behaviors may not only be a result from mental health issues, but can also influence the development of them.

As can be seen by the chart, the risky behaviors included alcohol consumption, substance misuse, skipping class frequently, and any sort of criminal behavior. For this question, only 67 out of the 100 participants chose to answer it, as each question was optional as to not intrude or force answers. This could mean that the remainder of the population either does not participate in any or did not want to disclose the information. Looking at the results, 82.1% answered that they consume alcohol on a regular basis, 49.3% misuse substances, 44.8% skip class frequently, and 10.4% participate in criminal behavior. Despite not all participants answering the question, this data still expresses that a decent amount of the sample population participates in some sort of risky behavior that can not only worsen their mental health but impact their overall life and academic success.

The very last thing that I wanted to assess within the survey was how informed the sample population was of mental health services offered on campus. I did this in an open text-box style as to not influence any answers, 85 individuals out of the 100 chose to respond. The majority of the responses only stated the counseling center, while a minuscule amount of others stated the CARE form,  referrals to genesis behavioral health, spirituality center, health services, therapy dogs often brought onto campus, trio (peer assistance), and supportive professors. A small amount of individuals wrote that they were unaware of any services. To be honest, I was quite impressed with how many people were aware of the counseling center, although many of the participants were upperclassmen. In my opinion, the counseling center is definitely the best resource for mental health issues on campus, although, it is not well advocated for which will ultimately be explored in the student interviews in the next segment of my applied project.

The last question I asked is if the participants have utilized any of the mental health student support services offered at Plymouth State University. Out of all of the survey questions, the responses for this one was the most evenly divided, as 51% stated they have, and 49% stated they have not. This data is surprising considering the results from the first questions, as 84% of the sample population has experienced a mental health issue or crisis, while 97% know somebody who has. Based off of this data, you would assume that more of this sample population would have utilized on campus mental health services. Although there are a variety of factors as to why somebody may not seek assistance when they need it, this data shows the importance of universities, including Plymouth State, advocating for mental health issues and raising awareness. As a society, we need to become comfortable with discussing mental health issues and stomp out the stigma surrounding it in order to promote positive mental health and get help to those who desperate’ly need it.


Student Interview: Fatima Brees
Fatima Brees (left) and myself

 

The first interview that I conducted was with Fatima Brees, a Junior student here at Plymouth State University studying Social Work. When I took into consideration who I wanted to interview for the applied portion of my project, Fatima was the first person I thought of as she is the definition of empowerment and inspiration, has an extensive amount of experience in the field surrounding mental health issues among other topics, and is well educated on the matter, which can be seen through her thoughtful responses in the interview below.

 

 

“I think making a big change happen seems like a huge task, but if everyone just made a tiny change, we could still make huge waves.”

-Fatima Brees in reference to the current state of mental health issues

 Based on whatever your experience is with mental health issues, do you believe it is an exaggeration to claim that there is currently a mental health crisis impacting America’s lately adolescence and emerging adults? Why or why not?

Fatima: I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that there is a mental health crisis happening, especially with young adults. I think that this stage of development is one of the most tumultuous – as it is a period of transition for many people, and during those times of transition, where the supports you once had are no longer available in the same way, mental health issues are most likely to emerge. In addition to the need for supports being the highest it has been for most people, there is also a lack of accessible services, which only exacerbates the issue. Similar to a physical illness, letting mental illness go untreated long term can make it worse, which I think is a huge part of the reason that this crisis is actually occurring: people are not reaching out for services until a critical point, at which time they may already be in crisis.

In my research I found that in 2014, 300+ counseling centers reported that first-year college students had the lowest level of emotional health in twenty-five years, being within this population, what are your thoughts?

Fatima: It is surprising but also it is kind of not because I feel like almost everyone I know struggles with mental illness in some way. Although, taking into consideration that the data was conducted through counseling centers those that participate are going to be those receiving services there so it is sort of like a self-fulfilling survey. If you want to ask college students if they are struggling with their mental health, and you have mental health professionals administering it, then they are just going to ask people they interact with… which are those who are struggling.

I agree that it may be self-fulfilling, but it could also be based off of more first-year college students showing up to seek counseling services than ever before.

Fatima: That is true, it could be related to empowerment, like as people that were raised to empower ourselves and ask for help when we need it, maybe it is not that more young adults are struggling, but that more of us are REALIZING we are struggling and actually communicating it to someone. After all, it is 2018, and we are out here advocating for ourselves.

What do you think is causing this steady increase in mental health issues among our generation?

Fatima: I think a lot of it is self-advocacy for sure, because we are realizing that we need help and/or that we don’t just have to suffer alone in silence. I think another piece that goes hand in hand with that though is like parental/guardian gatekeeping. A lot of times when people live at home, their parents don’t allow them to access mental health services, be it because they don’t believe in them, they can’t afford them, etc. So then we have a whole load of kids that either turns eighteen or moves out or goes to college, or some combo of those things, and they finally have the autonomy over their care to actually access the services they think they should.

I completely agree that a big factor of this data is just the fact that people are seeking assistance more, but do you think there is a difference in mental health issues between our generation and the one before us? 

Fatima: I’m not entirely sure. I feel like a big part of the shift in numbers comes from the new information we have. For example, the most recent DSM is substantially different than the original one. Otherwise, I think it might have to do with like social/societal changes. Like people joke about FOMO (fear of missing out), but I think with the level of immersion into social media and the lives of others, stuff like that is starting to really make an impact. We see our lives juxtaposed with hundreds of other peoples, both people we know and people we don’t, and you can’t help but compare yourself. I think a lot of depression and anxiety comes from that act of just constantly comparing yourself to others and wondering how you stack up and if you’re good enough and all of that business.

To the best of your knowledge, what do you believe the consequences are of society ignoring these problems and/or not advocating about them?

Fatima: Well I mean mental illness going untreated long term can be detrimental to a person’s life – if you’re depressed and you can’t even get out of bed, how are you expected to be a functioning and productive human being? Aside from which, and obviously depending on the mental illness(es) that a person struggles with, there can be a danger of harm to self or others. I think from a utilitarian point of view, treating people’s mental illness is more responsible and ethical – you can improve quality of life, as well as help to prevent harm, for the most people that way.

Who do you feel is responsible for helping fix the mental health crisis/address mental health issues?

Fatima: All of us. I think self-advocacy is huge and important and shouldn’t be dismissed because it’s how a lot of people in our generation have been able to get their needs met, but it can’t be the only way. I think it’s on all of us to be a little bit more educated, so that we as a society can just have like an “if you see something, say something” type of policy. If you see a friend or peer or colleague struggling, reach out! Obviously not everyone is a mental health professional, but everyone can be a friend, and everyone can help connect someone else to a resource. Plus, if we all get more educated, it would help to diminish the stigma, which is another big reason people don’t seek out the help they actually want and/or need.

Being a Plymouth State student, how do you feel about the quality of mental health services offered? 

Fatima: I feel like they are okay but they could be better. The counseling center is pretty good, and it’s awesome that it is a free resource for our students, but I think there’s more education that could happen within that office as well. I feel like in situations where the need to be seen is urgent, whether it came from a self-referral or a care form, they tend to be a little less approachable, when that’s really the opposite of how it should be. Urgency should not negate compassion and kindness in those settings, but I feel like in my personal experience it does. If a student admits to being in crisis, and then the immediate response of the counseling center is to make them feel shame, that’s now a person that wont reach out if they are in crisis again.

Throughout your time here at Plymouth, have these services been advocated to you frequently?

Fatima: Not really. They have been mentioned in passing, but I more know about them through friends I have that were utilizing them. I feel like my first year here they talked about it more because we were new and we didn’t know all the things the school offered, but it’s still not talked about the way other resources on campus are. Every tour of prospective students knows where the writing center and the math activities center is, but no one tells them about the counseling center? Mental health assistance should be just as acceptable to discuss as help with math or writing – sometimes you just need a little extra assistance.

“You have to physically see all three floors of the library, but you don’t even see the outside of the counseling center.”

-Fatima Brees in reference to prospective student campus tours

Do you believe that mental health issues is talked about an adequate amount on campus?

Fatima: I definitely don’t think it’s talked about enough. It’s weird to me because as a school, we have such a focus on serving others – on doing community service, and fundraising, and helping people “in need”, but we ignore the people ON our campus in need. Imagine for a minute if we put a fraction of the effort and time we spent on marketing our school to potential new students into helping the students that are already struggling on our campus.

Do you have any personal suggestions/improvements for Plymouth State or society as a whole in regards to fixing this mental health problem?

Fatima: I think both on PSU’s campus, and in society as a whole, a big piece of the puzzle is just education! Educating people about what services are available so that they can access them themselves, or pass the information along to someone they know who needs it, as well as educating people about mental illness to destigmatize the conversation. Maybe make education about mental health/illness a part of the curriculum – health classes in school talk A LOT about your body and basically not at all about your mind, which is just as important if not more so. Make it a gen-ed. Just get people in the room, and they will take something in. You dont have to be a professional or an expert to be like “oh hey you seem like you’re struggling, I heard about this thing that maybe could help”. Obviously the brain and mental illness are pretty complicated things, and not everyone is going to immediately become a behavioral psychologist, but everyone could know a little more and do a little better.


Student Interview: Eliza Brodeur-Fossa
Eliza Brodeur-Fossa (right) and myself

The next person that I chose to interview within the Plymouth State student body was Eliza Brodeur-Fossa, a Senior student studying Elementary Education. The reason that I chose Eliza is because she has a decent amount of knowledge on mental health issues through personal experiences and I was curious about what insight she could bring to my applied project. In addition, she offers somewhat of a different perspective than Fatima as she is not emerged in a field that focuses much on mental health issues nor has to deal with it frequently within her chosen career path. Therefore, the majority of her knowledge comes from personal experiences and research.

Based on whatever your experience is with mental health issues, do you believe it is an exaggeration to claim that there is currently a mental health crisis impacting America’s late adolescence and emerging adults? Why or why not? 

Eliza:  I do not believe it is an exaggeration that there is a mental health crisis among late adolescence and emerging adults. Through both my own life experiences and those I have witnessed through my friends I know it is something that is more frequent than people may think.

In my research I found that in 2014, 300+ counseling centers reported that first-year college students had the lowest level of emotional health in twenty-five years, being within this population, what are your thoughts?

Eliza:  I am not surprised at all. I know I was among one of those who had felt particularly low emotionally for sure. I think there’s a lot going on in the world that is bringing more of these issues to light and our generation is starting to release the stigmas that come along with mental illness which makes it easier to talk about as someone with a mental illness.

What do you think is causing this steady increase in mental health issues among our generation?

Eliza:  Once again, I believe it is just being talked about more. It is hard to tell if there is a steady incline in people developing mental health issues or just seeking support for mental health issues, but for sure I can see that more and more people are feeling less stigmatized and are more likely to come out about their struggles and seek help or at least discuss their struggles with friends and/or family.

To the best of your knowledge, what do you believe the consequences are of society ignoring these problems/not advocating for them?

Eliza:  I believe that there is a ton of consequences to society ignoring and not advocating about mental health issues. I know I say this a lot, but a big part of why I waited so long to talk to someone about my mental illness was the stigma. I always thought of myself as lesser compared to others, but if I was able to hide it then I would be a little less lesser, I guess. There is also such a slippery slope that starts once people see the stigma. If they don’t feel as if they can be comfortable talking about what is going on in their minds mentally or emotionally or what have you, it can really lead to some dangerous things such as self harm, or even wanting to take their own life or the life of someone else.

Who do you feel is responsible for helping fix the mental health crisis/address mental health issues?

Eliza: There isn’t any one person I would put this on to be honest. It first of all is up to the person with the issue or illness to feel like they are ready and comfortable to talk and from then on it’s the community, whether it is people generally not stigmatizing things, such as going to see a therapist or taking medication to help. Of course there also is the professional’s involved in helping make everything more smooth for people. Basically, it’s a lot of cooperation and people working together as well as directly with the individual with mental illness if they wish to seek out the help.

Being a Plymouth State student, how do you feel about the quality of mental health services offered? 

Eliza: I feel like it is good. The counseling center has a variety of people that specialize in various areas so you can really meet some of them and see which ones really click the best with you. There is also the emergency service through Genesis that also is very helpful in my view as a former Community Advisor.

Throughout your time here at Plymouth, have these services been advocated to you frequently?

Eliza: As I mentioned before, I was a Community Advisor (CA), so there was a lot of training that I received about the different services offered on campus, but had I not known about them through being a CA, I probably wouldn’t have known as much nor would I have utilized them in my time at Plymouth State University.

Do you believe that mental health issues is talked about an adequate amount on campus?

Eliza: I think there can always be more education provided to the students about the services offered as well as how they can help themselves or friends that are going through hard times emotionally.

Do you have any personal suggestions/improvements for Plymouth State or society as a whole in regards to fixing this mental health problem?

Eliza: Educate students about literally everything. Not all students know what there is on campus that they can use, but also a lot of them don’t even realize what they are going through is potentially a mental health thing. Keep students informed and educated and work on not spreading stigma to the mental health community.


Plymouth State Counseling Center Analysis & Conclusion

“We know that at times life can be difficult, if not overwhelming. It’s during those hard times that you may be in need of support. That’s why we’re on campus – to listen, understand, and offer support to you as you work towards confronting and resolving your challenges and problems. We believe that none of your problems are “too small.” If they’re important to you, they’re important to us.”

Michael L. Fischler Counseling Center, PSU

Michael L. Fischler Counseling Center                       Photo by Plymouth State University

The Michael L. Fischler Counseling Center at Plymouth State University (PSU) is made up of supportive staff knowledgeable on a variety of topics in regards to mental health issues and general emotional distress. According to the Plymouth State website, the counseling center offers a variety of services in order to appropriately address student issues, as well as provide programs and promote mental health awareness through education. To be more specific, the counseling center offers individual and group counseling, couples counseling, crisis intervention, consultation, psychoeducation, and alcohol/drug evaluations and programs. In addition, they make efforts to provide outreach by participating in New Student Orientation programs, national health screening days, and programs for faculty awareness. They also have the “Hagedorn Library” which is a one-room library located a the counseling center dedicated to educational materials on a variety of topics that students and/or faculty can browse through and borrow. When it comes to community engagement, the counseling center sponsors The Chemical Health Advisory Team (CHAT) that aims to address alcohol and drug use on campus. Lastly, the counseling center participates in program assessments in order to keep up to date on practices and ensure quality of care. 

Despite the counseling center offering a wide range of free, supportive services, based off of the data received in the survey students are not seeking support despite needing it. As already discussed in the research portion of my project, the survey, and interviews, there are a variety of reasons why individuals do not seek help, one of the largest reasons being stigma. Ultimately, it important for counseling centers to encompass a variety of models in order to meet the needs of the emerging diverse college population and address issues such as that of stigma. As discussed in my research, campuses should adopt an interdisciplinary approach focusing on bettering clinical services, educational awareness, community improvement, early interventions, and preventative measures. Overall, based off of my collection of data and knowledge, the counseling center at PSU seems to provide quality care for a variety of issues that one may encounter despite some minor internal issues. I highly urge students to utilize these supportive resources, as they are entirely free and it is important to catch and discuss mental health issues as early as possible. 

 


Assessment 

Looking back at the work I completed for both my research article and applied project, I am quite proud of myself as I persevered through many of the challenges and issues that I encountered along the way. One of the challenges that I faced was time management. It was difficult at times to juggle both the research and applied project at the same time, especially since the applied project heavily reflected what I discovered in my research. After all, the survey and interview questions were based off of the individual, interpersonal, and institutional factors, causation, consequences, and access to services. Therefore, I had to finish my research before I could sit down and develop the questions and really start on my applied project. The next challenge was gathering individuals who were willing to sit down for an interview, considering it is the end of the year, students and professors are too busy to take the time out of their day. Due to these challenges, I found myself having to continue to revise and alter my applied project plans. Although, in the end, both the research and applied portion of my project came out really good and I am personally pleased with the end result. The research has a substantial amount of shocking information and insight, the volunteering experience was rewarding, the survey proved to be a beneficial and necessary component to my research, and the student interviews were highly successful and interesting. Overall, I feel like I have increased my knowledge regarding mental health issues and will be able to use this research to go forward and help better the world.

Makenna Franklin

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

-Gandhi