How some students find mental health support when they return to school
Salt Lake Community College’s Center for Health and Counseling lowers barriers to entry, including cost and availability of services
This story is published jointly by non-profit organizations Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune, in collaboration with Salt Lake City Community College, to elevate diverse perspectives in local media through student journalism.
As students returned to campus this fall, many carried the brunt of the past 18 months on top of the stress that comes with a new year at university.
Mental health experts recommend discussing these issues with a licensed therapist early on, could prevent more serious issues for students as responsibilities increase over the semester.
A recent survey by Inside Higher Ed found that 65% of college participants rated their mental health as âfair to poor,â but only 15% seek help through the services provided by their schools.
âTherapyâ¦ is always surrounded by a lot of stigma,â said Claudia Cioni, clinical mental health counselor at the Center for Health and Counseling at Salt Lake Community College.
Cioni said clients often wait for therapy until they are emotionally overwhelmed, which she says is “like being in the middle of a tornado … you just see things swirling around and don’t have no perspective of what is going on outside â.
Feeling emotionally overwhelmed hampers the search for a good solution, Cioni said.
“The mind-brain has mechanisms to protect us from being overwhelmed and it starts by reducing its own abilities, like cell phones when they go into emergency operation – close apps to keep running but minimally. “she said.
Anxiety and depression can make it harder to learn, retain and reproduce information, which can make school and work more difficult.
And COVID-19, she noted, put a lot in survival mode: âWe’re going to [to therapy] when much of life is compromised and many areas of our life are already damaged, unfortunately; and this condition makes healing longer and more painful.
Confront the obstacles
Reasons for not seeking therapy include lack of access, mental health stigma, and financial strain.
âI’ve always been reluctant to seek advice because of the cost,â said Tamra Rachol, nursing student at SLCC. âUnfortunately, this only made my problems worse and I found unhealthy ways to cope with the stress in my life.â
Rachol took advantage of the services provided by the Center for Health and Counseling at Salt Lake Community College during the pandemic.
âNow that we’re back on campus, sessions are only $ 15, anywhere else they can cost you between $ 80 and $ 150 an hour. I am very grateful to SLCC for offering this service at a price that I can afford, âsaid Rachol, noting that she has prioritized taking care of her mental health.
Utah colleges and universities offer low-cost sessions for students with licensed providers to help them with issues such as anxiety, depression, grief, sexual trauma, and medication management. The fee at SLCC, for example, covers a one-hour session, and students facing financial difficulties can request a fee waiver. Insurance is not necessarily compulsory.
Former SLCC Eric Jensen, who transferred to the University of Utah last year, appreciated the accessibility of counseling services.
âFor me, knowing the counseling center was thereâ¦ brought me in,â Jensen said. “I think a lot of students don’t use it because they are hesitant about how it worksâ¦ the same rules apply, everything is confidential, nothing is going to school on the part of the counselor.”
Long term benefits
Jensen said seeing a therapist at SLCC has helped influence his behaviors elsewhere and noted that going into therapy becomes like any skill, “the more you do, the more you sort of come out of it.”
Jensen credits the sessions to SLCC for helping him identify some of his difficulties and learning strategies to overcome them.
âCollege is stressful. Students have a lot of stuff to doâ¦ and having someone to handle these things and someone to talk to was really, really helpful, âJensen said.
Since leaving SLCC, Jensen has continued his therapy through an independent counselor.
Rachol believes that the expertise offered by a therapist will always have a place in his life.
âIt offers a perspective that I can’t find anywhere else,â she said. âThe counseling center helped me overcome traumas from the past. They gave me the tools I need to deal with my anxiety and my triggers. Not only do I see a difference, but so do my family.
Amie Schaeffer wrote this story as a journalism student at Salt Lake Community College. It is published as part of a collaboration including non-profit associations Amplify Utah and the Salt Lake Tribune.