Student Health and Counseling Services (SHACS) is a valuable resource on campus, but they seem better equipped for students who have the flu than students struggling with mental health. Students with mental illnesses who approach SHACS frequently discover that their difficulties lie outside the scope of what SHACS is currently equipped to care for, or that the advice or treatment they receive at SHACS is insufficient given the extent of their problems. Further, administrative minutiae make it even more difficult for students to seek and receive help on campus. We have some suggestions on how these things can be improved.
In the short term, a number of changes could be made to make SHACS more effective. Small changes, like email reminders for appointments and calling students when they miss appointments, could increase the efficacy of SHAC’s services significantly—many students admit to missing appointments because they forgot or felt emotionally overwhelmed at the time of their appointment. Additionally, SHACS could publicize the groups they run more, and run groups focusing on offering support for depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
In the long term, the college must invest more money in student counseling services. While some of the changes that need to be made are obvious (more psychologists, for instance), the school should evaluate of how better to meet the needs of students and work towards those goals. Students ought to be able to access care for mental illnesses on campus, instead of having to go to Poweshiek County Mental Health center or other off-campus providers, which can create financial strain, and a large step towards that would be for the school to hire additional counselors.
Grinnell is in many ways a pressure cooker, and the stress levels here compounded with the high prevalence of mental illness on all college campuses only serve to increase struggles here on campus. Grinnell must provide resources for its students, and while SHACS undoubtedly has improved from its status in the past, it must keep improving until all students’ need are met.