At its busiest, appointments with Counseling and Psychological Services can take up to three weeks to schedule, CAPS director Nancy Stockton said.
For students dealing with the stresses of classes, mental illness or other factors beyond their control, weeks can be too long to wait, so CAPS recently hired five new counselors, bringing the number of clinical staff to 25.
“It certainly will help us meet the growing demand that students have for counseling,” Stockton said. “It will help us serve more students in a timely manner.”
According to an IU press release, among the new counselors are Daisy Anspach, who is fluent in Mandarin; Liv Mercer, who has an interest in anxiety management education; Brandon Muncy, who has a passion for issues surrounding the LGBT population; Enrique Silva, who was a first-generation college student himself and Fatima Zaidi, who was an international student herself.
The Mental Health Task Force, a group of students, faculty, staff and health professionals from the University and the community made the recommendation to add more counselors.
Lori Reesor, vice provost of student affairs, recommended to Provost Lauren Robel that the group be put together to study mental health at the University. Reesor was not available for comment.
Pete Grogg, executive director of the IU Health Center, said that on college campuses across the United States, students are asking for increased mental health resources. He said many schools are responding by hiring more counselors.
“It begs the question, what's Indiana going to do?” Grogg said. “And I think adding more counselors was part of the solution, but I think it's more complex than that. There's other things we need to be doing.”
Grogg said that the diverse backgrounds of the new counselors will particularly help serve minority students through the Let’s Talk program. The service allows students to be seen through the various cultural centers.
“These counselors will be participating in that program to provide more services to our Latino students, to our Muslim students and to our Asian students, either international or domestic,” Grogg said. “I think it's really going to help us target some of these populations that previously we didn't have the number of resources to do so adequately.”
In an article from Inside IU-Bloomington, Grogg said that there was a 31 percent increase in visits to CAPS between 2011 and 2016. There is little consensus on why there has been such a steep increase in demand.
Both Stockton and Grogg said there is not a singular factor that can be pointed to as responsible.
Stockton said part of the causes might be greater stressors in the world, such as increased job uncertainty and instability, the severity of hurricanes hitting the United States, international unrest and nuclear threats.
“There's a lot of anxiety-provoking things in the world today,” Stockton said.
Grogg said that the increased demand is generational. He said a generation of parents that have been over-involved in their childrens' lives has led to a generation of students who lack the skills to cope with the academic rigors and social stresses that come with college life.
“Our objective would be, with the Mental Health Task Force, to recognize this and to do more towards helping those kids when they arrive to school, setting expectations on what they're going to confront and give them the skills and have how to deal with it,” Grogg said.
Grogg also said one of the benefits of counseling is that it allows more students to attend college. Students who would not have been able to go to school 10 or 12 years ago because of a mental illness are now better able to manage that illness, thanks to the availability of more effective medications.
“Now, they're on a medication that allows them to be able to be productive and successful, but that illness still needs to be managed, and the medication still needs to be managed,” Grogg said.
Grogg said the Mental Health Task Force will continue to study mental illness at IU and make recommendations on how to improve resources.