”We cannot out-hire this need”: College counselors are at their limit

As student mental health concerns intensify, high demand is beginning to affect the staff trained to help them, per report.

With mental health reported as the top student stressor going into the spring semester, school staff are beginning to feel the strain. A new report surveying wellness counselors found that their increased workload is causing burnout as campuses struggle to meet student demand.

The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), joined by the online student wellness service Uwill, surveyed student affairs professionals nationwide on a variety of topics related to mental health on campus, and their results pointed to one consistent conclusion: Campuses need more help to alleviate mental health concerns among students.

A whopping 72% of faculty believe the trajectory of mental health on campus has decreased over the past year, even though 77% reported their school has increased financial commitment to its mental health services and 87% believed their school president or provost has prioritized campus mental health.

“What are we learning from this? There is an issue,” said Michael London, CEO of Uwill. “Schools are putting more dollars against that issue, but the schools themselves are recognizing that they’re not even close to where they need to be.”

Not only has demand steadily increased past a workable threshold, but 43% of staff also reported that the greatest challenge related to improving the state of mental health was the severity of mental health issues.

Treating the severity of mental health, which exists in such a “gray area,” isn’t so simple because it’s not always an explicitly diagnosable condition, like a broken arm, according to Erin Andrews, director of clinical affairs at Uwill. But faculty have noticed an increase in negative behavior among students.

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“We’re noticing an increased level of distress, we’re noticing a decrease in their ability to cope, we’re noticing a lasting impact of things that older generations might have regarded as just a part of life,” Andrews said. “And that’s what’s really impacting their ability to function as individuals and academically.”

Faculty workload, coalesced with more intense therapy sessions, has not treated staff kindly. In fact, 63% of staff reported their own mental health has taken a hit over the past year. It is no surprise, then, that the two actions faculty want to see prioritized to improve mental health on campus are expanding mental health services and increasing funding for existing services.

A possible solution to offload faculty workload and address student demand is partnerships between campuses and online mental health providers, such as Uwill, according to the company’s CEO.

“What we can do on campuses to really improve what we’re seeing is giving additional resources to support the staff, faculty, counselors, students, and everyone else who is touching on this expanding due to the shortage of resources,” said London.

An online mental health service can provide teletherapy, a virtual appointment with medically licensed counselors part of the service’s network, saving the campus time and energy.

According to TimelyMD’s aforementioned survey addressing student mental health, 75% of students who did utilize a teletherapy service say they experienced improvement.

“What most campuses are finding is, rather than hiring another counselor on campus, let’s diversify the solution so that we can handle most any solution at any time within a campus,” London said.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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