UConn’s Mental Health Services exist for liability reasons, not for student wellbeing

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The Center for Mental Health Services exists for one purpose, to excuse the university from any harm that may come to students from their own or other’s struggles with mental illness.  File Photo/Daily Campus

The Center for Mental Health Services exists for one purpose, to excuse the university from any harm that may come to students from their own or other’s struggles with mental illness. File Photo/Daily Campus

Despite outcry from the student population of UConn’s Storrs campus, the Board of Trustees continues to neglect the fiscal needs of the mental health programs offered. Since the closing of the Humphrey Mental Health Clinic in October of 2018, many students have been without vital psychiatric council due to their inability to pay or not wanting guardians to see the charges on their fee bill out of fear. Those with the ability to pay have turned to CMHS, who leave much to be desired with their services. It becomes clear to the student body that the Center for Mental Health Services exists for one purpose, to excuse the university from any harm that may come to students from their own or other’s struggles with mental illness. 

 CMHS funding has been cut drastically, leaving too few staff to handle the volume of need at such a large university. The funding does exist however, and has been awarded to the construction of a new $1.25mil hockey rink instead of the protection of the lives of the students who fork over thousands of dollars to attend the school. It has been shown in the most tragic way possible that UConn is not doing enough for its students in terms of mental health, as two brilliant UConn students have ended their own lives in the last three months. CMHS seems to spit in the face of students dealing with suicidal thoughts, assuming that playing with puppies and a yoga session is enough to end the worries of the students who often find themselves depressed to the point at which they are unable to leave their bed for a shower. 

 According to the Suicide Prevention Research Center, suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students nationwide, and rates are on the rise. 12.6% of students report suicidal ideation during college, and it can be assumed that many more fail to report. Should these students muster the courage to ask for help from CMHS, they are asked to endure extensive wait times, sometimes asked to wait until the next semester to be seen. Anyone who has dealt with mental illness knows that just like a malignant tumor, the earlier the illness is dealt with, the better chance the sufferer has of full recovery. College is a stressful environment, and the pressure put on students to excel may exacerbate the symptoms students face, especially with disorders such as anxiety and depression.  

So what if students don’t get the care they need and make an attempt on their life? UConn suggests that students shouldn’t return after such serious problems, telling them a “voluntary” medical leave is their only option other than being forcibly “kicked” out of the university. What student already making attempts on their life would benefit from being removed from their university, housing, friends and ambitions? None. The University of Connecticut offers this ultimatum for one reason and one reason only: If a student commits suicide on their campus, it looks bad for them and opens possibilities for liability claims. 

 In the wake of the past two suicides, UConn has taken no responsibility for their lack of services, and instead put the responsibility of looking after students on their peers, asking them to keep an eye on their friends and offer support if a friend asks for it. But students shouldn’t be told that keeping their friends safe is their job, when they have enough to worry about. This is UConn’s problem, and it must be made clear that we wait with bated breath to see a change in their relations with the mentally ill student population.  

If students intend on getting the help they need, more pressure needs to be put on the board to expand CMHS’s funding and services, as well as changing UConn’s policies for handling students suffering from mental illness and suicidal ideation. UConn, do better. Love, everyone you’ve failed.  


Lia Higgins is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alia.higgins@uconn.edu

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