GW should bolster CHC’s mental health resources

College students face incredible challenges, like academic pressure and financial burdens, as they deal with living away from home for the first time. With these challenges come mental health complications like anxiety and depression, or the exacerbation of existing ones.

Currently, the Colonial Health Center offers brief individual counseling to students free of charge, and while there is no session limit, the goal is to end therapy within a semester and then refer students to outside counseling if they have long-term concerns. The brief and free option is a step in the right direction, but the short-term counseling is often not enough for young adults, and since outside therapy is not covered by GW, students may face exorbitant charges. In addition, the CHC’s psychiatric department only offers appointments at a cost. The primary meeting is $80 and subsequent sessions are $40 each, which can add up for students.

To help students take control of their mental health, GW should create a need-based system through financial aid grants to cover the expenses of outside counseling and psychiatry for those who cannot afford it.

While some insurances cover outside therapy, many students have insurance that only covers care they receive in their home state or have insurances that do not cover the total cost of therapy. This means a student may have to pay out of pocket for long-term therapy, which isn’t feasible for everyone and students should have the option of long-term counseling, covered by GW.

Active Minds, a mental health advocacy organization, conducted research that found that the second leading cause of death among young adults is suicide. Suicidal ideation is not necessarily something that can be treated and resolved in the semester-long therapy that the CHC offers for free. If a student is struggling with self-harm and the CHC refers them to counseling that they cannot afford, the student may be left without options. Then, GW is putting students at risk of hurting themselves or others simply because they do not have the luxury of money.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine published a 2014 study showing that mental health problems are common among college students and often persist for several years. Because of the longevity of their problems, only offering students brief counseling leaves them needing to make an impossible choice between paying exorbitant sums of money or going without the help they need.

I, personally, have gone to therapy for more than five years and need long-term guidance on the issues that affect me. Going to counseling does not make mental health issues go away, it only helps people cope with and work through them. Long-term counseling is much needed for students who suffer from conditions that are complex or permanent.

To address this, GW should implement a need-based system through financial aid grants to cover the costs of long-term counseling for students that need to work through issues for an extended period of time. Students’ mental health must be one of GW’s main priorities and that includes covering long-term counseling for students who cannot afford it.

Another mental health resource that should be included in a financial aid grant system is psychiatry. A study shows that 17 percent of college students in the U.S. use psychotropic medication. By charging students for psychiatric appointments, only those wealthy enough to pay for it have access to this necessary treatment. This perpetuates economic discrimination on campus when in reality, all students deserve mental health resources regardless of their financial status.

Mental health diagnoses are rising in college students. Receiving a mental health diagnosis at an early age can allow people to treat their diagnosis before things get worse, and studies show that early intervention is always beneficial. But appointments for these diagnoses can only be obtained by wealthy students if the CHC continues to charge for their psychiatric services. By making these appointments costly, students are not receiving the proper diagnoses they need in order to address their mental health issues.

Economic inequality cannot be discussed without the acknowledgment that it disproportionally affects people of color and also that mental health care has a history of systemic racism. GW must stop perpetuating systems of economic inequality and discrimination because students of color and lesser financial status deserve full access to mental health resources.

While it is recognizable that the pandemic has taken a large toll on GW’s budget, it is also important to notice the massive detriment the pandemic has caused to students’ mental health. Nothing should be more important than the well-being of students. A financial aid system must be put in place to provide affordable long-term counseling and psychiatric resources to all students, depending on their ability to pay for those resources.

Society has come a long way in breaking down the stigmas surrounding mental health. Young adults now know that it is beneficial to go to therapy and be medicated. But not everyone can afford to pay for these resources, even when they are looking for help. GW needs to address this issue and step up for its students by providing affordable mental health resources through a need-based financial aid system.

Riley Goodfellow, a freshman majoring in political science, is an opinions writer.

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