Editorial | University must invest in mental health services

By The Daily Illini Editorial Board

As coronavirus permeated and crumbled every aspect of society, the world became one of isolation. A lonely world, filled with people forced to be antisocial, out of fear and government mandate. As a result, polls have illustrated that all the uncertainty and social distancing has bred a new epidemic — a mental health crisis. In particular, young people’s mental health has been impacted most by this pandemic.

And yet, despite a surge in mental health issues, the University has seemingly still not committed more resources to mental health services on campus. A plethora of complaints existed prior to the pandemic, contending the Counseling Center and McKinley were spread thin and overbooked, but now, when these resources are even more needed, there have been no plans to help students.

The University does have a page for student support resources in a time of COVID-19, but it doesn’t appear to have dramatically expanded on the existing resources or prioritized mental health, but rather coronavirus inconveniences. 

The University administration has poured enormous amounts of money into its testing apparatus, which is great, but it is unfortunate that the University chose not to match itself by pouring more money into mental health resources.

Most college students could tell their own story about future plans upended by COVID-19, such as a lucrative internship or a study-abroad program being canceled, but then to confine that student to a dorm room or apartment for the semester, condemn them from seeing their friends and give them the obligations of online school; it’s a perfect cocktail for souring mental health.

College students are already tasked with making stressful decisions, but luckily the stress of organizing one’s life is typically cut by bar hopping or gathering for a movie night. Since the University is cracking down on gatherings, rightfully so, the least they could do is manage the repercussions that come with secluding students.

In a sense, the University, by trying to control one public health crisis, is willingly creating another. But the ladder crisis the University has taken few steps to mitigate.

Students can’t be expected to internalize and cope with a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic on their own. Mental health on campus has always been notoriously underfunded, and it is time the University step it up. The University has the disposable income to spend on student relief, and because they claim to care about the student body, they must.

Chancellor Jones, it is time we stop the problem entirely, rather than stopping one and allowing another to surface.