OPINION: New course offered by USF highlights issues with on-campus mental health care

The university is offering a free course on mental health in the workplace, but their own mental health services leave a lot to be desired. ORACLE PHOTO

The university announced that it is offering a seven-session course designed to help managers and employees understand mental health and how it can impact the workplace.

While this course may be beneficial to other organizations, the university needs to focus on improving mental health services for its own students as well.

The USF Counseling Center offers free mental health counseling to all USF students. However, recently the center has received a lot of criticism.

Students have complained about long wait times, difficulty consistently booking with the same therapist and feeling like the counseling they received was insufficient. A lot of these issues were due to understaffing.

Director of the Counseling Center Scott Strader said at the beginning of this year that the Counseling Center had plans to put more focus on recruitment to solve this issue. Unfortunately, it does not seem like those efforts have been very effective. 

In 2022, there were 24 available therapists, according to The Oracle. Now, there are only roughly 16 staff members who are able to reliably meet with students on an ongoing basis, according to the Counseling Center’s website

Over 50,000 students attend USF, according to their website. It’s no wonder that some of these students are left waiting weeks for an appointment. 

Some students were also upset with the quality of the counseling. Junior elementary education major Rachel Fischer told The Oracle that she was left feeling hopeless after a call from a counselor.

“I remember hanging up the phone and thinking ‘Wow, what a waste of time.’ It would have been better to just call my mom,” she said.

Mental health is a major issue across college campuses. During the 2021-22 school year, 60% of college students met the criteria for at least one mental illness, according to a 2022 study by the American Psychological Association. 

Students who received mental health counseling at the center have the opportunity to provide feedback. Fortunately, over 94% of students report feeling satisfied with their care, according to Strader in a 2022 letter to the editor. However, this does not account for the students who were not able to get an appointment due to the long wait times. 

If USF is going to offer a course on the importance of mental health to other organizations, they need to make it a priority to improve their own mental health services.