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Thursday, May 23, 2024
The Eagle

Opinion: AU Counseling Center needs to increase appointment accessibility

The AU Counseling Center is unacceptably slow at getting students in for appointments

Since I began at American University, I have only heard bad things about the AU Counseling Center, ranging from inconvenient scheduling times to refusing treatment. I have watched many close friends reach out for help with the Counseling Center and are left to deal with their issues on their own. 

The changing dynamic of college presents a time for growth and a time of struggle. For many students, it’s the first time moving to a new city and starting fresh. It can trigger feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness that would never be experienced at home. Students adapting to living on campus, starting challenging classes and being forced into new social and cultural dynamics are some of the most vulnerable in our community. However, AU and the Counseling Center are not supporting these students.

Over the past week, I surveyed students on social media to see how long it takes students to get an appointment with the Counseling Center when facing a mental health crisis. One response noted that it took over a month to get an introductory appointment. One of my friends experienced a similar timeline of over three weeks, despite dealing with intense and unrelenting mental health issues, including panic attacks. Once she finally got in for an appointment, the Center denied her treatment because her issues were “too long term,” and they referred her elsewhere. After waiting three weeks, she received no treatment and little help. That is unacceptable.

There is clearly a pattern here.

Whether a student has a short or long-term issue, the failure of the University to get them in for an appointment quickly often causes further stress and mental damage. A three-week to month-long barrier dangerously threatens mental health treatment. In my personal experience, a quick turnaround to see a therapist is crucial and the longer the wait, the more issues begin to pile up. Whether it is anxiety attacks or depressive episodes, it is critical that every student has access to help, no matter the severity or timeliness of the issue. Students need a quick starting platform and the University's failure to give it to us is escalating the chances of further damage to our mental health.

The continuation of the Counseling Center's failure to timely attend to students' mental health issues is intolerable. Three weeks to a month to get in for an introductory appointment is too long. The University needs to devote more resources to the Center, especially as we approach another semester partially online. Specifically, it is time for the University Administration to step up and invest some of our valued tuition dollars in our mental health. As students, it is about time to stand up and notify the University that this lack of support is unacceptable and that we deserve more. I urge the student body to email our class senators and councils to have them advocate on our behalf to the University. The time for lack of action is behind us and we now need to remind AU that the mental health of its students should be among its highest priorities.

Sierra Rodriguez is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and a columnist for The Eagle. 

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