Mental Health Services for College Students--Are Wait Times Too Long?

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umass-fails-student-with-depressionAccording to a 2009 American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment survey, nearly 30 percent of college students reported symptoms of depression. With suicide ranked the third leading cause of death in teens and young adults ages 15-24, colleges should be doing everything they can to ensure their students’ mental health.

 

One student at University of Massachusetts did not find this to be the case. In an article she wrote for The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, Emily Merlino describes a recent bout with depression and her struggle to obtain care from UMass Mental Health Services. After contacting health services, Merlino was put on a two-week waiting list to be evaluated because she did not describe herself as suicidal.

When Merlino’s appointment date finally arrived, she was disappointed with the care she received. Merlino claims that the person with whom she spoke at health services “treated me like I was absolutely wasting her time… she literally told me that obviously my depression was not pressing or worthy of concern. Finally, her proposed ‘treatment’ was suggesting that I drop out of the University.”

UMass has neither confirmed nor denied the details of Merlino’s experience, most likely due to legal restraints. When we called the counseling center, we were informed they do offer initial 10-minute phone evaluations same day. Urgent appointments could be scheduled within one to two days and non-urgent patients are scheduled for appointments within a week to ten days.

Merlino claims that, in sharing her experience with her school’s mental health services, she provides “a prime example of why colleges across American need to step up and improve their services for students with mental illnesses.”

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