Students call for more accessible mental health resources


A student walks into the Turner Student Services Building, where the Counseling Center is located. Students argue mental health resources are not well-known to people on campus.

By Therese Pokorney, Staff Writer

Bridget Curren, a master’s student in Engineering, contemplated taking her own life after the depression caused by her brother’s death resulted in missed classes, missed assignments and plunging grades. 

Curren said students in Engineering with strenuous workloads, like herself, should be aware of the mental health resources on campus.

“The courses are hard, and there is no one in that field that can talk to you or give you hope that you will get through it,” Curren said.

She said she was referred to the Counseling Center by a friend, but she stopped returning after two sessions because she did not like her counselor.

Curren said she turned to Reddit, a discussion website that allows users to talk about categorized topics, when she needed comfort.

When the University offices are closed, the Emergency Dean, an on-call administrator, can be reached by individuals experiencing emergency health or safety situations. Curren said she wishes she knew about these resources when she needed counseling and advises students to contact the Dean first.

“Mental health has a huge impact on your studies and, just in general, your motivation to perform at school,” she said.

Curren said she would like to see more wellness groups catered towards discussing issues related to academic performance while balancing work and maintaining a social life.

“I think I would have liked to have known they were available, especially for Engineering students. With the competition and high-stakes nature of the program, I noticed many people losing it,” Curren said. “I’m sure the same can be said about many programs here at UIUC.”

Aside from the Counseling Center, Heather Zike, a computer science academic adviser, said she is especially concerned about Engineering students due to their rigorous courses and highly competitive field. 

“Listening, talking and sharing with them is the best I can do when they are with me sharing their story,” Zike said. “I refer a student on to additional resources on campus and within the community.”

Zike said an important step for students seeking help is finding someone they are comfortable talking to.  

“It has been said you are more likely to face someone suffering from a mental health crisis than someone needing CPR,” Zike said. “I have been trained in CPR for over 20 years and thankfully never been in a position when I needed to use that training. If I can learn more about something that occurs in one out of five people and help them, then I want to learn that information.”

Michael Kruepke, Ph.D. candidate at the University and assistant at the Psychological Service Center, said mental health professionals should talk about the subject in a casual way.

“I think that the services here are doing a lot of good work and there’s still a need that needs to be met,” Kruepke said. “I think having a better conversation on mental health concerns and ways of approaching that so reducing stigma of actually seeking help would be really beneficial.”

Putting the importance of physical health on the same level as mental health would eliminate the stigma that mental health is less important, Kruepke said.

“There’s a huge focus on physical health and things like that, especially in younger individuals,” Kruepke said. “There can be similar initiatives around mental health. Mental health is an equally important part of health, just like physical health.”

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Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Zike provides counseling services for students, implying Zike is acting as a mental health counselor. The Daily Illini regrets this error.