Mental Health Takes a Hit at Boston University

The individual narrative that is presented in this article is the experience of Naomi Carolan, a co-author on the piece.

I hesitantly stepped onto Boston University's campus in the fall of 2014. As someone with anxiety, I was apprehensive about the transition to a big school in an even bigger city, but I had not anticipated the hardships I would face. Despite my strong support system at home and my quick adjustment to academics, my mental health started to falter. Unbeknownst to me at the time, several of my friends at school felt the same crushing pain of mental health issues as well. The transition to such a big college had been difficult for them too, like so many young freshmen in college today.

Statistically speaking, 1 out of 4 college students suffers from some form of mental health illness. Even higher, 44% of students report having symptoms of depression. Suicide is reportedly the third leading cause of death among college students.

Boston University prides itself on a wide variety of mental health resources available to students. In light of a recent death on BU's campus, BU publicized contact information for chaplains, the Sexual Assault Prevention Center, and various other anxiety and related disorders counseling services. While their list of mental health facilities is comprehensive and superficially impressive, I and many others have been sorely underwhelmed.

In my first experience with BU's mental heath facilities, I nervously called one of their offices, feeling ashamed of my already-stigmatized disorders. I was hoping to find a counselor, so I could get back on my feet and feel "normal" again. However, when I called the office, they said there were no appointments available in the near future. I tried calling a different mental health facility within BU and received a similar response. I scheduled an appointment with BU psychiatrists in hopes of getting medication, and I was told I could meet them in one month for an initial assessment. I would then need a follow-up meeting for a final assessment, and it would take another month after my first trial of medication to adjust my dosage. I felt out of options.

Unfortunately, my story is one of many. I have spoken with other college students my age suffering mental health issues who are seeking help. They have been put on a minimum two-week waiting list for counseling, and in the unlikely event they do receive help, they generally will not be able to meet with the same counselor twice due to high demand of counseling services.

Boston University cannot afford to be stingy with providing mental health counselors and hotline services. Students' lives are on the line, as seen by the recent passing of a Boston University student. Suicide has become so taboo that those facing suicidal thoughts are too scared to reach out to friends and family, and in the off chance they call the university for counseling or medication, they will have to wait a minimum of two weeks. Depression, however, cannot wait two weeks for an appointment. Eating disorders cannot wait two weeks for an appointment. Suicidal thoughts cannot wait two weeks.

BU can ensure that students can have easy access to mental health resources by hiring more counselors and psychiatrists to meet with students one-on-one, so struggling students can get the help they need when they need it. If students feel satisfied with their counseling services, they should have the ability to meet with that same counselor again, rather than having to wait another two to five weeks to meet with a different person and relive their story. Moreover, the school should open a suicide hotline for students who require more immediate counseling. It is such an insignificant amount of funding that will help a vast majority of the student body.

I firmly believe it is a student's right, not a privilege, to have access to mental health facilities at school, and it is Boston University and every other school's responsibility to ensure that all students have those resources readily available.

This article was written to bring awareness to a prevalent issue facing Boston University. Please join us in adding your voice to pressure our administration to make meaningful change that will safeguard and ensure the wellbeing of all BU students.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.