"This has been very difficult for me to write."
May 1, 2015 7:40 AM   Subscribe

 
Please don't interpret this as victim-blaming, but for the love of God please don't ever go to a counselor who is paid for by your employer. They are not there to help you, they are there to protect their employers' interests. If those happen to be aligned with your physical and mental well-being, great, but that's nowhere near guaranteed.
posted by mhoye at 8:18 AM on May 1, 2015 [15 favorites]


The comments have it: Since Virginia Tech in 2007, colleges have gone too far in the other direction (i.e., just kicking students out). No easy answers there.

God, I hate our litigious society.

"universities are hiring more psychologists and psychiatrists, but students in some cases are footing much of the bill."

Because spiraling health costs. I ask again, WHERE is all this money (both tuition and health care) going?!
posted by Melismata at 8:23 AM on May 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Go watch "The Incredibles". No, I'm serious.

Watch the meeting that Bob has with Mr. Huph, where Huph does his "what about our stockholders?!" rant. THAT is where the money goes, for health care.

For tuition, ask about the new stadium/sports facility/shiny thing.
posted by mephron at 8:32 AM on May 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Baumol's Cost Disease, friends. Health care and education become more expensive largely because many other industries become cheaper. We can't easily automate, scale up, or otherwise routinely innovate in cost-saving ways those industries that rely primarily on unique or individualized encounters.
posted by ElKevbo at 9:20 AM on May 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


God, I hate our litigious society.

If a college provides mental health care and a student commits suicide while under that care or even afterwards but still enrolled with the school, that college could very well be sued for millions. This is what we do in America. While I don't agree with how colleges handle that threat, I can see why they do what they do. Successfully suing a college because it didn't provide mental health counseling at all is probably much harder than suing it because it did provide counseling for a student who committed suicide anyway. There are so many levels of fucked up in that equation.

On a much lighter note, when I went to W&M, the health center was a running joke. I suppose it is on most campuses. Every female student who went in for any complaint was first assumed to be pregnant. ("My eyes turned red and I started sneezing when the pollen started." "You're pregnant.")
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 9:21 AM on May 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


The comments have it: Since Virginia Tech in 2007, colleges have gone too far in the other direction (i.e., just kicking students out).
This was happening long before 2007, for what it's worth.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:29 AM on May 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jesus god they held a meeting and kicked him out?

Wow.
posted by sio42 at 11:03 AM on May 1, 2015


Every female student who went in for any complaint was first assumed to be pregnant. ("My eyes turned red and I started sneezing when the pollen started." "You're pregnant.")

And then you got a cold-pack.

not the ice kind, the robotussin kind
posted by k5.user at 11:08 AM on May 1, 2015


W&M alumnus here.

<rant>

I went to one of the Counseling Center's "open house" days to just talk, and try to figure out if some of the emotional stuff that was going on during that portion of my life was "normal."

After answering the brief questionnaire, the woman who was assigned to me (who, in light of recent events, I now realize may not have been qualified in any way) looked it over, and commented that some of my answers were reminiscent of depression. I kind of shrugged, and she asked me how things were going in my life -- was there a recent death in my family? (No) Was I dating? (No) Sexually active? (No).

She smiled, said that it seemed like I was managing things well, and told me that I was always free to schedule an appointment. I can't say that I was particularly encouraged to stop back again, given that the center basically suggested that I was showing symptoms of depression because my life was objectively shitty, and I wasn't fucking anybody.

In the end, I figured out that my issues largely stemmed from sleep deprivation due to W&M's insane academic schedule on top of some poor time-management habits that I had at the time. I'd also just come out of the closet (although that never came up).

In hindsight, I saw a lot of things during that "open house" that I now recognize as glaring red flags, and in retrospect, I'm glad that I never encountered a legitimate crisis while I was at W&M -- I certainly wouldn't have sought help, because I'd formed the (possibly correct) opinion that the counseling center was worthless...

There were other things too...

I also had a short laundry list of complaints about The College. I tried to transfer twice, managed to secure an offer from a good school on my second attempt, and my academic adviser lied to me to convince me to not accept the offer. During my Freshman year, I tried to switch dorm rooms because I was being mercilessly bullied (as in, I was beaten up, and had my head held down in the drain of a shower for several minutes); my RA told me that the process of moving rooms would be difficult, and that I should try to wait and see if things got better. "Required" courses were often impossible to register for, and prerequisites were often poorly defined.

During my Sophomore year, I had a 2-credit "lab" course that was producing a ~30hr/week workload, and required us to attend numerous sessions outside of the scheduled hours. Literally every single student in the course complained to the dean that the course's credit rating was extremely out of proportion to the workload and requirements. The department head eventually met with us, and made some comment about the professor being an "Exciting new hire," and told us that he would not be asking the professor to adjust the hours or make any changes to the curriculum.

I understand that my experiences are not a good or accurate reflection of The College. Some of them might have even been forgivable if they didn't exist in the context of all of the other shit I was dealing with. Being trapped in Williamsburg certainly didn't help matters...

W&M had a reputation as a "suicide school" when I started, although it didn't quite deserve the reputation --- statistics can be misleading when you have a small population. Right now, W&M deserves this reputation, and I'm personally horrified that the college is not treating it as a full-blown emergency.
posted by schmod at 11:10 AM on May 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


On a much lighter note, when I went to W&M, the health center was a running joke. I suppose it is on most campuses. Every female student who went in for any complaint was first assumed to be pregnant. ("My eyes turned red and I started sneezing when the pollen started." "You're pregnant.")

Ah, yeah. The health center.

I'm guessing that the nurses had a script that they read to every patient, but I definitely remember my female friends being weirded out by the number of irrelevant pregnancy-related questions that they were asked.

Fortunately, there was a good urgent care clinic a few blocks away.
posted by schmod at 11:15 AM on May 1, 2015


On a much lighter note, when I went to W&M, the health center was a running joke. I suppose it is on most campuses.

Honestly, they were mostly useful for finding outside specialists when I was there - their actual direct treatment was often comically incompetent. (Prescribing the wrong oral antibiotic for an infection, then terminating it and replacing it with a topical that also wasn't appropriate, etc.) That said, I never had problems getting an appointment or a referral when I needed one, and they were cheap. Meh.

I heard horror stories about the mental health services, though, and the official messages about serious incidents ("Ambler Alerts" in our parlance) were frequently tin-eared to the point of unintentional comedy.
posted by fifthrider at 11:34 AM on May 1, 2015


I am also a W&M alumna, and I also remember the jokes about the "suicide school" reputation. With the caveat that this was like 10 years ago and I may have some of the details muddled, my experience with the schools mental health services went something like this (forgive the rambling): I was looking for help with a mix of things: the (to me, at least) isolating experience of being a transfer student, the stress of some severe physical health problems I was dealing with, and run-of-the-mill depression and anxiety. I had begun to develop a good working relationship with one of the counselors (who was a graduate student and inexperienced but we had a good rapport and things were going better) and then hit whatever the maximum number of sessions allowed was, after which point they referred me to someone off-campus. If you've ever been in therapy for an extended time, you know how sucky it is to have to start over with someone new and spend all this time on backstory again before you can even get to working on your current shit - I was not super psyched about this prospect, and on top of that, the woman and I just didn't click at all (I didn't get the impression she had worked with students much), and plus having to drag myself to another place not even close to my classes was basically more than depressed me could handle. So I quit going. I somehow, months later, after getting a lot worse, managed to beg and plead my way back into seeing my old on-campus counselor again, and she managed to keep me afloat to graduation.

I've attended two other colleges/universities. The first, a school I transferred out of, was a tiny liberal arts school in the middle of nowhere with a mental health center that was sort of a mixed bag of questionable characters but was committed to providing long-term counseling. The second, where I went to grad school, was of the "X sessions then we farm you out somewhere" model (although I still got to see the on-campus psychiatrist for medications). I ended up with the best therapist I've ever had, but she wasn't covered by insurance (there were a couple other options but she was recommended so highly that I went for it). I'm not sure what the answer is for how much medical care students should expect to receive in-house, and I realize that I'm not even addressing the issue of what schools should do with more difficult cases - beats me?

Otherwise, I had a mostly fine experience at W&M, although I am still annoyed at a professor who, during the semester in which I had a serious physical health crisis, gave me an undeservedly low grade that she justified with criticism about my class participation but obviously was just because she was a vindictive jerk.

Ambler Alert, lol.
posted by naoko at 1:53 PM on May 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Please don't interpret this as victim-blaming, but for the love of God please don't ever go to a counselor who is paid for by your employer.

Not that it should particularly matter, but universities are not the employers of undergraduate students-- in fact, they are paid handsomely to render service (!).
posted by threeants at 4:42 PM on May 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


(And yes, many undergraduates are also employees of their universities, but it is almost never in this capacity that they would receive counseling services.)
posted by threeants at 4:43 PM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Boy, this reminds me a lot of what's currently going on at the University of Pennsylvania. Six undergraduate students have committed suicide in little over a year. A lot of noise has been made about it, a lot of supposed soul-searching and promises to extend mental health services. And yet mental health problems are as stigmatized as ever, students face similar barriers to getting back in, and their counseling center is a joke. Oh, they have counselors and you can go see them. But it's their policy to kick you out after a few sessions and tell you to find someone outside campus. Psychiatric services are a complete no-go, of course. I was pretty shocked when I heard this as at previous universities I'd been in--Johns Hopkins and Temple University--provided long-term counseling and psychiatric services to their students for as long as it was needed. I fail to see the point of going to see one of their therapists if their purpose is simply to tell you that you're fucked up and then refer you off to someone else. But that's how Penn works: make it look real good on the surface, and hope nobody will notice there aren't any actual changes happening underneath.
posted by schroedinger at 5:19 PM on May 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


When I was an undergraduate, there was a constant back-and-forth where every few months there would be an article in the student paper claiming that the suicide rate was one of the highest in the country, and then the administration would claim that the numbers didn't support that at all. I honestly don't know what the answer really was, though I did know of too many suicides to believe that it was legitimately low.

The university I attended for graduate school had an indisputably high suicide rate, and for most of the time I was there they did very little about it except for trying to find ways to count suicides as accidental deaths instead.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:02 PM on May 1, 2015


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