Many individuals are left waiting for up to two months to get an appointment for mental health support. Demand for counseling services has grown significantly during the pandemic, and it is not uncommon for people to wait 30 to 60 days to get an appointment. This is a problem that has been seen across the country, with some states partially eliminating waiting lists by integrating counseling centers with campus-wide offices. However, this does not always guarantee that students can access services without complications or delays. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Colorado Springs has noted a constant shortage of providers.
The diagnosis process must be done at a Denver center, but other services may be provided at the Colorado Springs center after diagnosis. Ben Locke, executive director of Psychological and Counseling Services and director of the University Mental Health Center (CCMH) at Penn State, believes that college students are not becoming less resilient or more susceptible to mental illness. To equip psychologists to direct these practices, doctoral programs must increase training in the business skills needed to run an organization. This would allow students in training to be paid for the services they provide in a low-income area while earning their doctorate. In addition, a new “cafeteria-type” licensing format is being prepared, in which providers will be able to choose specialty areas of approval in addition to the basic services they offer. The demand for counseling services by students far exceeds the supply of mental health professionals, the resources, and the time needed by counseling centers to facilitate the ongoing counseling process.
State education budgets are still limited and no attention is being paid to requests for additional resources, leaving many directors trying to balance long-term counseling needs with urgent counseling needs. As a result, people hear horrible stories about waiting times and are therefore hesitant to contact them, even if they would actually benefit from counseling or are in a crisis. Any solution to the problem of the national waiting period must include additional resources for counseling centers to keep pace with the steady growth of students seeking mental health services. To address the needs and concerns of the individual as a whole, the counseling center must collaborate with the entire university, considering physical and social well-being as important factors in relieving the burden of the counseling center and helping students find what works best for them. Rachel Fischer, an elementary school student, requested emergency help from the USF Counseling Center and was able to receive it immediately.