The Daily Illini

Student Senate plans to promote mental health resources in coming semester

By Samantha Jones Toal

“It was really frustrating having to call at 7:50 a.m. I personally felt like I wanted to get into counseling as soon as possible to get the process rolling,” she said. “The fact that every single morning I didn’t want to get up at 7:50, it just made it that much harder to get it started.”

According to the Counseling Center’s website, a student can make a same-day appointment by calling their phone number any time after 7:50 a.m. Monday through Fridaybr.

Hahn said the morning that she did end up calling, she made an appointment that fit perfectly with her schedule. However, the Center later called her back saying that they accidently penciled her in for a filled spot.

The Center apologized to Hahn and she received an appointment the following day.

The website specifically encourages students to call earlier, since times available for initial appointments are provided to students in the order that their calls are received.

“This approach allows us to offer support to as many students as possible each day,” the Counseling Center website says. “We are dedicated to providing accessibility and support services to our students.”

However, the Counseling Center does provide emergency consultations to students with urgent mental health concernsbr.

“These consultations are focused on stabilizing the current crisis and emergency and providing immediate support to the student while assisting them in linking to our services,” the website says.

While Hahn cited her reasons for seeking out a counseling session as “not super serious,” she said talking to a counselor was something she has wanted to do since middle school.

Students receive 12 free sessions a year with the center, and after their first appointment, the center suggests an outside resource to continue helping the student.

Sometimes counselors will offer advice and other resources for the student to utilize or students will continue counseling sessions.

“After my first appointment, I walked out the happiest I had been in college,” Hahn said. “Just to be able to get it off my chest and the fact that somebody listened to what I said besides family and friends and said, ‘that’s normal, it’s okay to feel that way.’”

She said while her experience has been very positive, she does have a friend who has not been as happy with his experiences.

“People are afraid to go to counseling, not for good reasons but for understandable reasons. It’s not something that is a part of normal life,” Hahn said. “People don’t like talking about it. It’s taboo and people are kind of like, ‘oh you see a counselor sometimes?’”

She said if she wasn’t a social work major she might not be as familiar with the Counseling Center and believes other students might not be as familiar with it.

“I feel like the Counseling Center is a resource that I never thought would be there so that’s really cool,” Hahn said.

“The stigma around mental health is a societal issue,” Hahn said. “Talking about it makes the most sense because the stigma is created by not talking about it and saying that talking about it is wrong somehow.”

Farah Chalisabr, senior in political science, sponsored a resolution to create such a committee through the Illinois Student Senate just for these reasons.

Chalisa co-chairs the ad hoc Mental Health Committeebr which exists to help end the stigma of mental health issues as well as to spread awareness of resources available on campus.

“There are good resources available but there’s just not enough awareness of them,” she said. “And there’s such a stigma associated with mental health, especially with all the mass shootings happening, there’s a huge misunderstanding that connects mental illness to violence.”

Chalisa said the committee mainly focused on research this semester in order to see how realistic their plans were and what their goals needed to be.

Working with the Association of Big Ten students, the committee was involved in the “U Are Not Alone” campaign, which put together mental health resources for the Big Ten onto a website.

“It’s one easy place where students can find resources available,” Chalisa said.

For the upcoming semester, Chalisa said the committee plans on continuing different campaigns that’ll mainly be centered through social media efforts and demonstrations on the Quad.

However, she said she is concerned about funding for the resources on campus.

“With the budget cuts, one thing that we’re really concerned about is that mental health funding will be first to go,” she said. “But cuts have to come from somewhere and that’s unfortunate that’s the place they’re going to come from.”

The Counseling Center was not available for comment.

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