During a depressive episode my senior year of high school, I found it difficult to receive help. It was not until I was at my lowest that I finally went through treatment and improved my mental health. If I was given access to more resources, I could have avoided ending up in that place. Reliable mental health services are crucial, especially for students, to prevent situations like these.
Tuttleman must urgently address issues with its staffing shortage and long wait times because Temple University students deserve access to viable mental health services. Andrew Lee, Tuttleman’s new director as of September 2021, should take the initiative to listen to students’ complaints about Tuttleman and ultimately improve its services.
During the Fall 2020 semester, four in five students at local universities reported the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted their mental health, with two in five experiencing moderate anxiety and more than a third experiencing depression, according to a May 2021 report from the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice.
Due to mental health issues being highly prevalent among college students, it is beyond crucial for them to have access to reliable services, as they would for physical issues like a broken leg.
In total, there are only 18 counselors at Tuttleman. With more than 30,000 students at Temple this semester, this is an unacceptable number of counselors to accommodate the student body’s mental health needs.
For example, University of Pennsylvania had an enrollment of more than 21,000 students in Fall 2020, and has 42 mental health counselors. Penn has fewer students but they still have more counselors than Temple.
“We need more counselors, so that anyone who needs to see a counselor for more than a few weeks has the option to do it,” said Naynthra Guru, a junior psychology and criminal justice major.
Beyond its staffing shortage, Tuttleman needs to ensure students have access to a therapist they can rely on.
Students typically receive six to eight counseling sessions at Tuttleman after completing their initial assessment, or referrals to long-term treatment options. They may experience inconsistent wait times between appointments if they request a different counseling provider or treatment plan outside of what Tuttleman recommended for them.
Consistency is a key factor in seeing improvement in patients because it allows patients to feel more comfortable around their therapist. Those who attend therapy irregularly tend to have higher rates of therapy drop-out, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
“We make every effort to work with the student, communicate well and often, and discuss options,” wrote Dean of Students Stephanie Ives in an email to The Temple News.
Students should have the option to see a counselor weekly or biweekly. Currently, students see a counselor once a week for approximately 45-50 minutes, depending on the student’s needs.
Although Tuttleman is making the effort to accommodate students’ needs, the center must at least provide weekly appointments with set times to receive consistent treatment that is necessary for improving students’ mental health.
In response to student complaints about waiting times, Tuttleman has transformed its intake process so students can be seen faster, Ives wrote.
Once students register for services, they are generally contacted within 24 to schedule an initial screening appointment, Lee wrote in an email to The Temple News. If it is an emergency or crisis situation, they are able to speak with a counselor generally within the same day.
While Tuttleman says they do provide emergency or crisis resources to students, some students have felt uncomfortable when using them.
Vriddhi Vinay, a senior global studies major, experienced significant discomfort after she was escorted to Tuttleman’s counseling center, she said.
Upon calling Tuttleman Counseling Services to express her problems, they sent the police to her house and put her on a psychiatric hold from approximately 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Tuttleman’s counseling center, Vinay said.
“Instead of clarifying what I meant, they sent the police to my house,” Vinay added. “I don’t like or believe in the police, so that made me uncomfortable.”
She wishes Tuttleman would have sent her to a psychiatric hospital, rather than Tuttleman’s counseling center, she said.
“Regarding sending students to a psychiatric hospital, these types of referrals are made when there is a concern for a student’s health or safety,” Lee wrote.
Tuttleman requests a student be sent for an additional psychiatric evaluation at a screening center to determine if higher level of care is needed due to concerns raised by the student, including concerns about their ability to care for themself or if they express thoughts about hurting themselves or hurting others, Lee added.
When students like Vinay say “life is awful”, Tuttleman assumes the student may harm themselves or someone else, and refers them for psychiatric screening. Tuttleman should be more transparent about these protocols by explicitly stating their policy regarding psychiatric referrals, as students may feel uncomfortable going to a psychiatric center for screenings without prior knowledge of the process.
As the new director continues to step into his role, Tuttleman must address its complaints from students, and be more open and explicit in stating their policies for services and treatments.
“It was important to us to be responsive to students’ needs,” Ives wrote.
Although Tuttleman plans to address students’ complaints, students must see these actions being done. As college students, tending to our mental health is important, and it should be prioritized at Temple.