There is no denying the fact that mental health disorders have become a burgeoning problem in the United States. And it’s not just the elderly who are getting affected, even youngsters in their prime are increasingly facing the brunt of various mental issues. Students of various university campuses have the advantage of seeking help from counsellors on their campuses. However, of late, the California State University has been complaining that it is not able to meet the growing demand for mental health counsellors on its campuses.
To deal with this crisis situation, the university authorities are now pushing for a law that would mandate the hiring of more mental health staff on the campuses. The California Faculty Association (CFA) is supporting Senate Bill 968 authored by Sacramento-area Senator Richard Pan. If passed, the bill would make it mandatory for every college campus to maintain a ratio of 1,000:1 between counselor and student.
Many counsellors, including Mimi Bommersbach, Ph.D., a mental health counselor at the Chico State, are of the opinion that the increasing demand for counseling among students could be due to their higher anxiety level caused due to domestic troubles, pressure of handling jobs and school, lack of adequate social safety net, unrecognized family members and the inability to handle all such issues.
Counselor staffing needs improvement
It is recommended by the International Association of Counseling Services (IACS), the certification body for college counseling centers, that the colleges should maintain a minimum ratio of 1000:1 between students and every full-time counselor on campus. But the latest research by the CFA has revealed that the Chico State has on its rolls just one counsellor for almost double the number of students. Currently, the students to counselor ratio at the Chico State is 1900:1. What’s more concerning is that the CSU campuses have exceeded this limit too and the average ratio currently stands at 2217:1.
The major drawback of an imbalanced ratio between counselor and students is that it limits the availability of requisite help to only those who experience crisis and not to ones who are in need of long-term treatment.
In December 2010, an executive order was signed by the then California State University Chancellor Charles Reed that made it mandatory for all the CSU campuses to offer short-term individual and group counseling/therapy services to students dealing with any form of psychological or behavioral difficulties. But in reality, these services can only be provided if the campuses have the required number of counsellors working with them. It is important for the universities to understand that the need for mental health services can in no way be ignored. In fact, the students pay for such services as part of their fees.
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