30 to 40% of students visit the Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) at least once during an academic year, according to CWC Director Dr. Anne Fisher. The ability to treat those with psychological injury on campus is a resource that is both heavily used and necessary. With budget cuts on campus and a large incoming class—as well as persistent understaffing from previous years—it is evident that the CWC is under pressure. Organizers eagerly seek to fill the positions of Counseling Specialist and CWC Assistant Director after the unfortunate loss of staff members—however, a growth plan is being implemented in order to control the obstacles being faced, and even with these financial challenges on campus, staff have developed solutions and aim to continue expanding services.
After the rise of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 there has been a significant increase in young adults seeking therapy. In April 2022, a survey was conducted by Mental Health America which showed shocking results: 51% of youth experience frequent suicidal ideation and anxiety levels that are 422% higher than they were in 2019, meaning it is more important than ever for students to be aware of campus resources and be acquainted with mental health hotlines.
“There has been a high demand for the CWC services as a whole,” Fisher said. “With an increase in the incoming class, this demand has certainly continued.”
Students can expect an inconsistent availability of counseling services due to the current lack of staff, so it is important to book appointments as soon as possible. CWC staff has been trying their best to continue assisting students with their needs despite difficult times. The staff has implemented an online scheduling option for improved accessibility.
“We are currently interviewing for a new Assistant Director of Health Education, and we hope to add this person to the CWC team by fall break,” Fisher said.
The addition of a new Assistant Director would ensure more appointment availability, organization in the CWC and assistance on campus. While these new hires are being sought for, the CWC has included alternative wellness options such as student yoga led by Post Doctoral Fellow Dr. Nick Gensmer and has recommended nurse practitioner for mental health services.
With the help of CWC Case Manager Randi McDowall, counselors are able to find community resources for students in the Sarasota and Bradenton areas. McDowall aims to seek help for students while both staying in their financial range and reducing anxiety during stressful times.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have Randi McDowall, our case manager, to help these students find resources out in the community,” Fisher said. “Randi, as a new addition to the team, comes with a wealth of knowledge of the Sarasota/Bradenton area.”
The CWC has acknowledged shortcomings such as finances and understaffing. Regardless of the issues that are presented, the CWC team is still passionate and working hard.
“I take pride that I am now in a community where I can be seen, and show those who have had my experience growing up that they can be a part of the community,” Clinical Director for Counseling Services Keith Kokseng said.
Kokseng, McDowall and Fisher all hope for positive change in this upcoming semester through campus events, new staff and a collaborative community.