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The North Wind

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I am a marketing major about to start my second year at Northern Michigan University, however, this will be my third year in college. I previously attended a small community college...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Addressing mental health

The first weeks of the semester can be overwhelming for many students. Dealing with homework, adjusting to college life, being hundreds of miles away from home and adding a new flame to the mix sometimes pushes things aside. And some students feel intimidated to ask for help. But jumping over those hurdles is just one appointment away, and NMU counseling staff encourages all students to familiarize themselves with the resources offered for mental care. 

NMU follows a brief counseling model, where NMU Counseling and Consultation Services (CCS) typically sees most students one to six times per semester and issues include everything from adjustment problems to more serious mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression, Dean of Students (DOS) Christine Greer said. Some students are seen more long-term than others, Greer added. 

“I think it’s become all about getting students in, they [the counseling center] don’t have as much time for outreach. But when you have a waiting list, something’s got to give,” Greer said. “It’s a very good staff. They do wonderful things for our students and they work really hard.” 

In the academic year 2017, CCS saw 576 sessions, and 722 in the 2018 academic year. 

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CCS has four full-time counselors and two part-time counselors. Any student can walk into the office, but the issue they face comes down to the waiting list, and sometimes students may not be able to get an appointment immediately, Greer said. 

Each week, the counselors oversee 25 to 30 sessions including group sessions, and CCS covers the whole spectrum from homesickness, relationship problems, the loss of a loved one, depression, eating disorders and trauma issues, Assistant Professor and Clinical Psychologist Christy Hartline said. 

If a student comes in with severe issues that need a higher level of care, sometimes living in Marquette is difficult because of the amount of scarce resources, Hartline said. 

Last winter semester, CCS used the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which allows for students to see professional mental health care in the community when the waiting list. The university pays for the bus ticket to seek a counselor from the community and that student can receive care within two to three days, Greer said. 

But sometimes going off campus to receive help can be more “daunting,” Greer said. 

“It’s just another hurdle when you’re trying to get some help,” she said. “There’s only so much you can do with a mental health situation. What we do is try to get the students the services that they need. We can’t force a student to do anything.” 

The solution would not be to add more counselors onboard or staffing a counselor 24/7, it’s about looking at the issue and scaling it differently so students have more resources, Greer said. 

The DOS has some retention projects in the works, she said. Wellness initiatives include possibly implementing a variety of resources such as a tel-a-health, which deals with psychological issues. A peer-mentoring program of trained students helping to assist with lower level mental health issues. Greer noted that not every issue needs a one-on-one counselor; sometimes people just need someone to talk to, and a peer-mentoring program might lower the stigma surrounding mental health. 

The DOS is also considering creating a wellness website, massage chairs and expanding face-to-face workshops. Tuition insurance is another.

Another resource the DOS is talking about is adding a mental health kiosk to campus. It acts as a “check-up from the neck up,” asking assessment questions and allowing for people to examine their mental health during their daily routines. All of these wellness initiatives might help to alleviate the issue of the waiting list at CCS, Greer said. 

Hartline said CCS follows the International Association of Counselling Services standards, and this association acts as the “guro” for counseling care. For every 1,000 students a university has, one full-time mental health provider would be stationed, according to the IAC. 

Greer and Hartline both noted that if a student needs care immediately after CCS hours, students should Dial HELP. That number is a resource for students and is accessible 24/7, and the individual does not have to be suicidal or homicidal to call the number, Hartline said. 

CCS also hosts emotional crisis sessions every day of the week, and a student does not have to be going through a high-level mental issue in order to receive immediate care, Hartline said. Group therapy is another aspect CCS hopes to continue. Previous semesters only had one group session, but now the center has three and Hartline said they want to continue expanding that service. 

For more information regarding NMU’s mental health care, visit www.nmu.edu/counselingandconsultation/.

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