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News Feature

Should CCNY improve their mental health services?

As the demand for mental health and counseling services among college students continues to rise, the resources needed to cover this demand needs to be expanded. A 2023 survey conducted by virtual health services provider TimelyMD found that 50 percent of college students identified mental health struggles as their top stressor. This recent study sheds light on the importance of improving the counseling services in colleges–and made me wish to explore the Psychological Center (also known as the Clinic) in the City College of New York to see how they tend to the growing demand for mental health services. 

From an interview with Talia Schulder, a training therapist in the Psychological Center, I was able to find out many things, including that the Clinic does not just treat students at City College, but it also treats the people who live in the West Harlem community. The Psychological Center operates daily from Monday to Friday, serving a substantial number of individual patients, including approximately 80 adults, 30 children, and various groups. There is a variety of  available treatments provided, including individual therapy, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), psychodynamic therapy (the most common approach), as well as group therapies like process groups and support groups, along with trial therapy tailored to each patient’s situation. Although patients go to the Clinic for different reasons, the most common reasons people go are mainly from depression, being stressed out, or suffering from anxiety. 

Due to how many people the Psychological Center provides support and help to, it finds itself stretched thin, grappling with limited resources and an overwhelming workload. While the center has been a vital support system for many people in the Harlem community and especially for college students, it still faces challenges that have highlighted the pressing need for increased funding and resources to meet the growing demand from students.

One of the most significant issues facing the center is the shortage of counselors available to meet the needs of the entire CCNY student population. With a limited number of trained professionals on staff, students often face long wait times for individual counseling sessions. It is difficult to make an appointment as most times are already booked, leaving some in need of immediate assistance without adequate support available. 

Additionally, group therapy sessions and workshops, once seen as a valuable resource, are now packed or seen as an inadequate source of support. Young people such as myself are more reserved in how we feel so we are less likely to seek help. Even if we do seek help, being in a group of strangers can often make people feel uncomfortable to share how they feel. All this contributes to individuals with psychiatric disorders not receiving the treatment they need. This has led to concerns that the quality of these sessions may be compromised, as counselors struggle to provide individualized attention to each participant present.

The budget constraints faced by the CCNY Psychological Center have also hindered efforts to expand its services and hire additional staff. Despite the pressing need for more resources, the Clinic has been forced to make do with limited funding, potentially jeopardizing the quality of care provided to students. If the Psychological Center was able to have an increase in its budget, it would allow them to have more space and resources to provide care for everyone who is in need of their services. 

Another issue found in the CCNY Psychological Center is its lack of outreach–before starting this news feature, I was unaware that this center even existed! (I thought there was only the Counseling Center at CCNY). Due to this, students, staff, and others in the CCNY community are unaware that such a center exists and that it could help them with their issues. A culture of wellness should be promoted on campuses, with the development of wellness apps, initiatives to adapt policies to support student wellness, and efforts to connect students with available services. If there is not a culture of wellness then student mental health could continue to deteriorate, with over 60% of college students across the nation meeting the criteria for at least one mental health problem during the 2020-2021 school year, according to the Healthy Minds Study.

In light of these challenges, it is clear that the CCNY Psychological Center is at a critical juncture. While it has been a lifeline for many students, the center’s ability to continue providing essential services is under threat without significant changes and increased investment. As the student population’s mental health needs continue to grow, addressing these challenges is paramount to ensuring the well-being of the college community.