In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedies, we got many emails imploring the student body to make use of the Office of Behavioral Health Services when times get tough. Sounds like a good enough plan, right?
Well, the truth of the matter is that the OBHS is woefully underfunded and over-extended.
Last year, it was decided that the services of OBHS be cut in half. Rather than respond to the ever increasing demand for mental health services with allocating more funding, the administration responded by…well, limiting visits to professionals to five a year.
It is difficult to accept that students be told to use a service that can barely meet the demand as it is. This is not to say that you should avoid seeking out the help you need. Please, if you ever feel you need to talk, don’t hesitate to call them.
However, I do, in many respects, find it irresponsible of the administration to quell fears of the community that the students at Wesleyan have all the resources they need when in fact they do not.
As Mike Butterfield ’06 wrote in a wespeak last year:
Take three: Williams, Amherst, and Trinity College. Amherst, Wesleyan, and Williams are known as the “Little Three” colleges; this fraternal designation marks each college in the triad as a critical reference point for the other two. Trinity is nearby and comparable to the Little Three in its “competitiveness,” size and cost. A comparative investigation reveals two striking facts; first, none of these three schools places a limit upon the number of weekly counseling sessions a student can seek. That is, Wesleyan’s peers offer both short and long-term counseling—at no charge—to their students. Second, these institutions employ significantly more counseling staff to attend their smaller student bodies. It is important to stress that a comparative analysis of mental health services is important in two respects; (1) because it shows that competitive peer schools allocate significantly more resources to provide for the well-being of their students, and (2) that these increased allocations perhaps reveal a different, more compassionate institutional attitude towards the health of students.
Administrative officials may claim that “there is no budget” for such a thing. Such a claim is fiction– corporate Capitalism creates scarcity. With a $150 million dollar annual operating budget, what Wesleyan faces is not a “crisis of resources” but a crisis of priorities. I refuse to believe that Wesleyan does not have the estimated $50,000 per year to hire another psychotherapist(s); this amount reflects three-hundreths of one percent (.03%) of Wesleyan’s budget.
I believe that Wesleyan can do better. I agree with Wesleyan’s Administration that the demand for counseling services outstrips OBH’s current capacity; I also agree that when talking about healthcare, it is silly to bicker over numbers—”5 or 10.” However, I believe the “radical” notion that the best way to ensure mental health for students is to provide care, and that we could stop talking about numbers if Wesleyan joined its peers in offering as many counseling sessions as are required for students’ health. I believe that this institution has a responsibility to provide care for its students, because this environment creates intense stresses and challenges, and because Wesleyan claims to not be a business, but a caring community. Certainly, other staff and students can play a part in making a healthy environment on campus, but in the end, they are not professional medical staff.