Piedmont staff talks about it at orientation. Admissions counselors and Team Piedmont tour guides show prospective students where they can find it. Z98.7 FM reminds us of it. But when you go to book it, you can’t.
And then they downsized it.
I’m talking about Piedmont’s counseling services, which like most colleges and universities, is understaffed and underfunded. Piedmont prides itself on being different than bigger institutions; they care more about students. Piedmont’s Starfish attendance program supposedly exists to keep an eye out for students who may be struggling with adjusting to college life or mental health. But the counseling services are constantly booked, the only open time slots being weeks away and during normal class hours. Our counseling department was once two people and is now a grand total of one after Evonne Jones left Piedmont.
There is one woman running the counseling department and still trying to see students. How is that student-centered?
College might be the most important time for young adults to have access to mental health care. According to a recent study by the National College Health Assessment, three out of five college students experience severe anxiety and two out of five have debilitating depression. Mental illnesses in college left untreated can result in drops in college retention rate, heightened suicide rate, higher risk for substance abuse and less prepared students when it comes to managing their health after college.
There’s no reason a small school that has more student tutors than anyone can use to not have adequate counseling services on campus. One counselor isn’t enough. The inability to get in to see Piedmont’s counselor is frustrating and unfair to students who had it advertised to them as part of campus services. For those of us who have been regularly seeing counselors for years and no longer have the option to make an appointment due to the lack of availability, it might even be dangerous.
Having sudden, dramatic changes made in your mental healthcare (like being taken off a medication) leaves a patient’s care team on high alert to monitor their well-being. Is someone’s counseling, one of their most important tools for fighting mental illness, being abruptly taken away any different?
Piedmont, I implore you to look for ways to expand your on-campus counseling services. Make our college’s counseling program strong enough to keep students safe and healthy. Get us the resources we need to be successful students.
If we really are a close-knit community where the administration cares, if we are different from other schools, do something your students need.