Exploring a University's Role in Campus Mental Health

Apr 20, 2018

For this episode of Engaging the Community with MSU President Clif Smart, we’re talking about mental health on campus.

Mental health encompasses everything from anxiety and mild depression to Bipolar Disorder and schizophrenia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, suicide was the leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 in 2015.

“I think it begins with the understanding that probably somewhere north of 10 percent of our students are dealing with, struggling with mental health issues,” Smart said.

He said MSU must be prepared to address the mental health issues these students are facing in the same way the institution addresses physical health needs.

Missouri State University has a new, 13-million dollar facility: the Bill and Lucille Magers Family Health and Wellness Center. 

The university paid for that mostly with the sale of bonds, which are covered by a student fee.  But it also received gifts from several private donors, including the Magers family.

“Our counseling center had been located in Carrington [Hall], which is an awful place to locate a counseling center—right there with admissions and all the administrative offices,” Smart said.

Now, MSU’s Counseling Center has its own space within the new health facility.

“There’s significant privacy. There are seven full-time counselors, four graduate students that provide counseling,” Smart said.

There’s a shortage of mental health professionals across Missouri, and across the country, which leads to long wait times for therapists or a doctor who can amend someone’s medication.

“Unlike mental health in Springfield or most of the country, you can get a non-urgent appointment [here] within a week. You can get an urgent appointment day-of,” Smart said.

The primary mental health issues students tend to face are relationship issues, depression, suicide ideation, or troubles related to academics.

“We have all levels of care available to engage a student,” Smart said.

If a student has a mental health crisis during hours when the campus center is not open, he or she should go to a hospital emergency room.