Mental health help for FGCU students

The demand on college campuses for mental health counseling is growing so quickly that schools are struggling to meet the need; nationwide, more than 40% of college students are experiencing depression The trends Florida Gulf Coast University is seeing are on par with colleges around the rest of the country—these include an increase in anxiety, depression and relationship issues—and an overall increase in their distress index.

Staff say they do the best they can with the team they have, but they’ve had to use a waitlist for around six years. Experts say things have been heading this way for at least the past decade, but the pandemic has no doubt accelerated the trend.

“Change is always stressful,” said Dr. Jon Brunner, executive director of counseling and health services at FGCU. “So is the unknown. And I think those things just naturally create more distress for human beings. So, you know, you look at the pandemic, and everything that we don’t know, and the the isolation that has occurred because of it… those things are always going to be stressful.”

FGCU’s counseling and psychological services saw a 50% increase in calls to its crisis line this August compared to last, and staff feel the demand for mental health services is only going to continue to go up.

“Everybody talks about being resilient, and how to build that way… you build resiliency by, first of all, being aware of yourself, and how things are impacting you, how you’re feeling,” Brunner said. “And you have to be upfront with yourself. And it’s also good to then develop coping skills, but it’s also important to have that social connection. And I think that’s why relationships, for college students today, are just so important.”

The good news, according to recent surveys, is that the services offered are helping: Over the past three years, 60% of FGCU students say that the counseling actually made it possible to continue there as a student. Staff also say requests for counseling have likely gone up because mental health has become so much more de-stigmatized over the past few years, and it is now much more socially acceptable for people to get the help they need.

Reporter:Taylor Wirtz
Writer:Joey Pellegrino
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