At this point, every student at the University of Connecticut likely knows and understands that online classes and virtual club meetings aren’t exactly the same as meeting in-person. Even meeting up with friends is often difficult because of the restrictions and the fact that some may not be on campus this semester. All of these factors combined can be extremely isolating and detrimental to students’ mental health.
In order to help combat this, UConn has created something called “U-Kindness.” According to their website, U-Kindness serves to “inform, engage and connect with students throughout the University during the COVID-19 pandemic.” U-Kindness has many activities that students can participate in, such as virtual fitness classes from the Rec Center, game nights, origami and many more.
It is great that UConn has created these opportunities so that students feel less isolated and can still have some semblance of normalcy during their semester. However, this is not enough to fix UConn’s problems with its mental health services.
It is a well-known fact that UConn’s mental health services are lacking. In the 2017-2018 school year, the average wait time for non-crisis individual therapy intake appointments was about 15 days. This long wait time is discouraging, and it causes many to forgo seeking help entirely, causing mental health problems to get worse. Last winter, we tragically lost two students to suicide. Despite this, UConn failed to change anything about the mental health services, when in reality, they should have made improvements then and there. UConn has created an incredibly stressful college environment, and then deprived us of the resources to deal with that stress.
Especially at a time like this, when students are unable to interact with their peers in a normal way, better mental health services are more important than ever. Students need to be able to rely on a system in which they can get the help that they need, when they need it.
Although U-Kindness is a good start, it is not enough. UConn is in dire need of proper funding for Student Health and Wellness-Mental Health so that all students can get the help that they need. UConn must address the long wait times as well as increase diversity among staff, among other problems. The best way to do this would be to significantly increase funding.
There are numerous students at UConn for whom English is a second language. SHaW-MH should have numerous personnel who are comfortable conversing in many different languages in order to give these students the best help possible. However, this is not currently the case; although SHaW-MH staff themselves are working to increase diversity, the university must do more to help support this process. Increasing funding will help with hiring more staff who are comfortable speaking in a language other than English as well as staff who are familiar with other cultures so that students, especially international students, feel more comfortable. UConn prides itself on its diversity; it’s time that they start supporting all students of diverse backgrounds in whatever ways that they need.
Proper mental health care goes deeper than virtual activities for students to participate in. The fact is, if UConn really cares about its students, the administration will increase funding for SHaW-MH so that students can receive the best care possible.
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