Staff Submission: Mental Health Support at Colgate

Staff Submission: Mental Health Support at Colgate

Dear Students,

What an emotionally intense year this has been, with many frustrations and disappointments. Nothing seems normal or predictable. Although “we are all in this together,” I also realize that my year has been very different than yours. You are going to college during a tumultuous time, many of you are far from home and some are working remotely from Colgate in unique circumstances. College was tough enough before COVID-19, with lockdowns, social distancing and masking. Similar to other college students who reported that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health during Fall 2020, I realize that many Colgate students may be struggling through this pandemic as well as the many other traumatic events we face at this moment in our nation and world. In this way, you’re not alone and we are in fact traversing this time together.

As the director of Colgate’s Counseling Center, I am writing to ask that you find the courage to reach out for help if you need it. I am aware of the rumors that the Counseling Center has a waitlist and that it is very difficult to find an appointment with a counselor. I am concerned that these rumors may cause some students to shy away from calling, concerned that they may not get an appointment in a timely manner, that their issues are not “bad enough” or that they don’t want to take another student’s spot. On the contrary, I work with a team of dedicated mental health professionals who are happy to meet students where they are, regardless of the reason, and who have continued to respond to this year’s demands for services without a waitlist. We have never had a waitlist. Importantly, students can be seen the same business day if they need to be. If a student wants to work with a particular counselor or has very limited availability to offer, they may need to wait for an appointment in those circumstances. In addition, our counselors facilitate a wide variety of group therapy options and there is an on-call counselor available after business hours and weekends for those in distress when the office is not open. 

As many of you are aware, Colgate’s counseling center is a well-utilized resource. During the last five years, close to 50% of students sought our services at some point during their four years. Last semester alone, we met with almost 20% of on-campus students. Similar to all of you, we had to make very quick adjustments to our work and we have been offering telehealth since last March. Our satisfaction survey data indicates that students have made the adjustment to telehealth successfully and in some cases, prefer its convenience to in-person sessions.

The Counseling Center combines its resources with Haven, Colgate’s sexual violence resource center. Together, these two offices have six full-time staff, four part-time counselors and three interns, all of whom are trauma-informed. Additionally, we take our shared social justice mission very seriously. In addition to regular professional development as individuals and as a group of counselors, we are constantly considering our own biases and how our privileges may affect our work. We work to ensure that our services are accessible to groups who have traditionally found health care systems invalidating or oppressive. We take a holistic approach that encourages students to consider healing practices that may be outside mainstream psychological theories. Students are their own experts, and we have the opportunity to help guide them and support them on their journeys. We never want a student to feel like our services are not accessible to them.

Now more than ever, it is important for you to reach out to others if you need help. You are not alone. There are many people who want to support you while you attend Colgate — staff, faculty, mentors, peers. I am fortunate to work alongside an amazing group of mental health professionals who are dedicated to helping you through your Colgate experience. We hope that you will reach out if you need our services. Be flexible in your availability and candid with what you need. If you don’t reach out to us, please reach out to somebody to ask for the support that you need during this time.