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Student Counseling Services Expands to Increase Accessibility
"We have a more varied approach instead of just going into the classroom and lecturing on what mental health is, we want to bring awareness to the importance of mental health."
The Student Counseling and Disability Services (SCDS) encourages Mississippi College students to take advantage of its services. Students do not have to pay an extra fee for counseling at the SCDS. According to their webpage, the SCDS provides “students with the services, support, and skills needed to grow, develop, learn, and thrive while at Mississippi College.”
In the spring of 2022, students expressed concern and discontent with the quality of services offered by the SCDS. MC administration in cooperation with a student advisory group and the SCDS acted quickly to evaluate the needs of students and to make adjustments to meet those needs. This resulted in two major changes. The first of which is the addition of a female counselor to the staff.
Sarah Kate Griffin started in Aug of 2022 and is a Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor.
“I believe that counseling is most effective when a student recognizes a need for change in some area of their life and is motivated to make, sometimes, uncomfortable steps toward that change,” said Griffin. “Counseling is a place to honestly process, evaluate, and make choices to continue or adapt thoughts, behaviors, and actions towards that goal.”
Avery Wolfe, an English Writing major, who has been to counseling through the SCDS for a few semesters, finds it important for a woman to have the opportunity to speak with another woman.
“A lot of women go through a lot of similar issues that only a woman would be able to understand,” said Wolfe. “A lot of reasons why I go to counseling are specific to me being a woman. It’s so important for me to have a woman’s ear.”
The second major change is the increase in accessibility. This semester, the SCDS is taking steps to make students more aware of its purpose and services. Maintaining good mental health is important for all college students. While individual counseling sessions can make a huge difference in a student’s life, the department wants to reach the student body more often by doing events.
“We have a more varied approach instead of just going into the classroom and lecturing on what mental health is, we want to bring awareness to the importance of mental health,” said Dr. James Strickland, Interim Director of Student Counseling & Disability Services. “It’s something we can all attend to.”
The SCDS has already begun to reach out to the student body. Recently, the SCDS partnered with the Multicultural Student Association and Student Success for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which is the month of September. A booth was set up on Pedestrian St. and students were asked to write encouraging notes to those struggling with depression and anxiety. Eventually, the office wants to schedule a mental health awareness week. Counselors of the SCDS also recently hosted a depression screening day last week.
“That outreach is helping us get to what our students need, especially with the freshmen. We can see what the incoming class needs, so we can tailor the approach moving forward,” said Dr. Strickland.
By doing different types of outreach, the SCDS wants to show that maintaining mental health can look different for each person. People cope in different ways.
“[Maintaining good mental health looks like] holding myself accountable because it’s so easy to slip into unhealthy thought patterns,” said Wolfe. “It’s almost an indulgence to slip into those patterns because then you can pity yourself and stay that way. Good mental health is constantly calling myself out and re-evaluating. [My counselor] will call me out too.”
Another addition to the SCDS this semester is the ability to transfer counselors. When available, SCDS will try to accommodate the student’s requests to transfer to another counselor. This particularly relates to the students wanting a counselor with a specific gender.
The SCDS is open Mondays through Fridays from 8 to 4:30 pm and is located on the fourth floor of Alumni Hall.
“I think [counseling] is just a safe space to explore who you are and your needs and how to best care for yourself,” said Strickland. “I can stay well physically by eating right and going to the doctor. I can stay well spiritually by being plugged into a spiritual identity. Part of wellness is staying mentally well, and I can do that by attending counseling.”
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