The University’s Student Health Center does not provide the mental health services it claims to provide.
It typically takes weeks to get a scheduled appointment for an initial consultation, and if a student would like to take advantage of the free therapy services offered, they must wait months to get an appointment.
To investigate this problem, I spoke to several current and former students about their experiences trying to take advantage of the SHC’s mental health services, and the responses I received painted an unfortunate picture.
I spoke to one recent actuarial sciences graduate who described his own experience attempting to book future sessions with a University therapist after managing to get an initial appointment.
"I was told that this particular therapist was booked through the rest of the semester and into summer, but that there were ‘one or two’ other therapists who ‘should have some availability in the summer, if you're still going to be in Baton Rouge.’ I responded that I actually had an internship lined up in New Orleans for the summer and wouldn't be in Baton Rouge. I was encouraged to schedule early for the following fall semester to ensure I could get a spot because ‘they fill up quick.’”
In essence, they told him that he would likely have to wait roughly eight months to get in for an appointment with the therapist he originally saw.
If you look at the SHC homepage, you will see that it is offering Telehealth appointments for medical problems at this time. However, it does not offer Telehealth appointments for therapy or psychiatric consultations. If you want to make a mental health appointment, you have to call during the normal hours of operation.
I did so to see how long it would take to make an appointment. I was told that the next available date to see a therapist for an initial consultation would be in a little over two weeks. Afterward, the employee I spoke to indicated that I would likely be referred to a psychiatrist or therapist within the local community, rather than be booked to see one provided by the University.
The major issue I have with this is that a referral to another mental health professional in the Baton Rouge community is not the same as the University offering free mental health care, which it claims to do. Many psychiatric professionals, therapists and other forms of counselors do not accept personal health insurance, and if you want to access the University’s free therapy services you will likely have to wait an exorbitant amount of time.
Unfortunately, the University does not seem to prioritize these services, and they have done little to make them more accessible even during this stressful time.
Everyone I spoke to, current and former students alike, had similarly negative understandings about the SHC’s approach to providing students with mental health care, whether they had experienced this issue firsthand or known friends who had.
The University needs to address this problem and find a way to give students the same access to mental health care they have to other medical health concerns, especially now, when students need access to mental health care the most.
Natalie Knox is a 23-year-old English senior from Lake Charles.