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Increase counseling resources

May 5, 2017

This piece represents the opinion of the Bowdoin Orient Editorial Board.

One in four Bowdoin students uses the College’s Counseling Service. However, Bowdoin cannot adequately meet the needs of these 462 students. Counseling Service can’t provide weekly one-on-one sessions, instead offering bi-weekly meetings and group sessions to most students. This week, the Orient published an article revealing the adverse impacts of this overcrowding. Students aren’t able to receive the support they need and are forced to seek care from off-campus providers, which costs more and is less convenient.

This has been a problem since 2013, when the Orient reported that 27 percent of the student body utilized Counseling Service and the office stopped weekly one-on-one meetings.

Students’ mental health needs must be met. Discussions of mental health frequently appear in the pages of the Orient and on our campus. Students’ happiness, well-being and academic performance suffer when they don’t get the help they need. If the College wants to maintain a diverse and healthy student body, it has to meet these mental health needs. Untreated or inadequately treated mental health issues can seriously harm students. This lack of coverage is irresponsible and cannot persist.

The lack of resources allocated towards counseling reflects a disregard for mental health issues, characteristic of a previous generation. Historically, mental illness was treated as something shameful that successful people did not suffer from. This attitude has impeded the growth of mental health services. In recent years, we’ve come to acknowledge that mental health problems affect many people and shouldn’t be stigmatized. Mirroring this acknowledgment, more Bowdoin students have sought counseling. Over the past 10 years, demand for counseling has increased by approximately 146 students. Allocation of resources towards counseling should reflect this increase.

In an interview with the Orient, Bernie Hershberger, director of counseling services and wellness programs, explained that under President Barry Mills the College had been planning a new counseling building to improve functionality and student experience. This project has been stunted. President Rose should show he understands the importance of strong mental health care and pick up where Mills left off.

To meet student demand, the College should allocate financial resources so Counseling Service can increase its staff. Many students who can’t see Bowdoin counselors every week transition to off-campus providers instead. Though this works for some, it presents a financial burden for others. With more counseling staff, more students would be able to have consistent appointments on campus.

Additionally, to support students confronting issues of gender identity, as discussed in the Orient’s article on a transgender athlete two weeks ago, one of these new counselors should specialize in gender therapy. Often, trans people cannot get hormones or surgery until they have received therapy. Thus, the support the College demonstrated by covering hormones and gender confirmation surgery in its health insurance plan means little if the College does not also provide access to productive gender identity therapy.

The College should consult Counseling Service and seek input from students to chart a more specific path forward. It is vital that the College’s actions reflect students’ needs. Colleges across the country are improving their mental health services. It is imperative that Bowdoin follow suit. Students’ mental health needs to be prioritized.

This editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Julian Andrews, Harry DiPrinzio, Dakota Griffin, Jenny Ibsen and Meg Robbins.

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