Funding needed for University of Minnesota's Health Services

Funding needed for University of Minnesota's Health Services

By Allysa Marral

For the hardships that come with college, UMD Health Services provides on campus counseling for just about everything. Mental health, in particular, has become a hot topic on campus.

"The severity of health issues that students come to college with has really increased," said Jean Bairbeau-Thoennes, Associate Program Director and Counselor at UMD Health Services. "Students are dealing with a lot more stressors, such as funding the cost of college on their own, so students are taking more credits and are working to try to balance it out."

According to Boynton Health Services College Student Health Survey, 34 percent of students were diagnosed with a mental health condition before coming to UMD. According to the same survey, 33 percent of UMD students also said they’ve been unable to manage their stress within the past year.

Even though Health Services helps thousands of students each year, UMD is understaffed compared to the Twin Cities campus when it comes to counselling. The counselor-student ratio at UMD is about 1 to 2,700; the ratio at the Twin Cities campus is about 1 to 1,000.

"We need more resources,” Baribeau-Thoennes said. “We work hard to identify when a student really needs to be seen."

Health services has been working to make sure they can see as many students as possible. They have done this by implementing session limits and drop-in counseling hours.

“Either we needed to add more providers or open the schedule for new clients by developing policies around how long or frequent students could be seen,” Baribeau-Thoennes said.

The counseling shortage has grabbed the attention of student representatives across all of the University of Minnesota campuses. The number of students visiting Health Services has increased, but the funding and employment of new staff and counsellors has not.

Mike Kenyanya, one of the Student Representatives to the Board of Regents, expressed what they have been doing to try to get their point across to the board about this issue. During this year’s report, the student representatives once again stressed the importance of mental health. After last year’s report, the Twin Cities campus received additional funding for health services, but according to Kenyanya, this left the other four campuses saying, “What about us?”

“Clearly the board agrees it’s an issue because they gave to Boynton Health Services at the Twin Cities campus,” Kenyanya said. “But we wanted to show them that the problem still exists on other campuses as well.”

“There’s unfortunately still a stigma around mental health,” Kenyanya said. “It’s not like when you break your leg—you can clearly see that.”

In the hope that students will be more comfortable talking about mental health, and not with just a counselor, there are student run organizations like Wellness Advocates and YOUmatter, which are mental health awareness and suicide prevention groups that help in doing just that. There are also events all year long to help with stress and anxiety such as PAWS and Stress-less Week at the end of the semester.

Seeing how the Twin Cities campus received additional funding for health services, there has been a push to get additional funding to the other campuses now more than ever.

Kenyanya explained why this problem grabbed his attention:

“You have to treat everyone’s issues like they’re your own when you’re a representative. If we can get people in more often and quicker, it could prevent some of the issues from getting bigger.”

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