Even though it won't open until the fall semester, a new health center on Youngstown State University's campus could mean big things for mental health on campus.
Dr. Ann Jaronski, Director of Counseling Services at YSU, said that the creation of the center will hopefully expand not only the treatment available to students but also the number of students who reach out in order to get help.
According to Dr. Jaronski, the University Counseling Services Center has seen approximately 250 students from the fall semester to now.
That number seems strangely low for a university of more than 11,000 students.
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, the national average of college students who admit to experience a mental health concern per year is more than 30%.
Across the nation, colleges and universities report a range of 5% to somewhere near 30% of the student population that visits the counseling center for mental health purposes.
Dr. Jaronski says that right now YSU may even be below that 5%. However, that may not be because there are less students with mental health.
According to Dr. Jaronski, the current system of counseling may be "artificially" keeping numbers down.
Currently, the Counseling Services Center has two counselors, including Dr. Jaronski. Between the pair, they can only see so many patients.
Dr. Jaronski says right now students are typically waiting between six days and two weeks for an appointment to speak with a counselor.
From there, if a student needs psychiatric evaluation for medication, they could wait up to six weeks in order to get in to a recommended psychiatrist.
Dr. Jaronski said she's hopeful that the psychiatric help in the student health center will decrease that time and mean more students are able to get help.
Under the contract with Mercy Health, psychiatrists will be available at the new health center two half days of every week. But Dr. Jaronski is hopeful that once students take advantage of the service, Mercy will recognize the need and expand that service.
In addition, the numbers may be rising, but without the numerical data to back it up, the Counseling Center can't be sure.
The university switched to electronic file systems just over a year ago, meaning that their ability to track trends and increases in services is still in it's infancy.
However, what Dr. Jaronski can say is that the number of students with anxiety issues coming in has surpassed those with depression. The two make up the majority of all students who receive treatment through the counseling center.
That data lines up with the national trend, which showed anxiety disorders surpassing depression on college campuses for the first time ever in 2009 and then steadily climbing higher and higher.
Of those students who do get help at the university, Dr. Jaronski said the majority of them have never been diagnosed with a mental health problem, but report that they've experienced symptoms for months, or even years.
Part of that phenomenon, according to Dr. Jaronski, is partially because students can receive free care at the university, as opposed to before or after. But another part points to a factor that there is still a stigma surrounding mental health.
At home, around friends and family, Dr. Jaronski said there is often shame and too much of a stigma where young adults won't seek out treatment. However, on a university campus, students are often free from familial and social restrictions, can stop into the counseling center between classes, and faceless fear.
For Dr. Jaronski, the most important thing is making sure students know that there are resources on campus for mental health.
Both of the counselors available on campus are general care- meaning they can begin help students with things like anxiety, depression, addiction, grief, and many more.
From there if a student needs specialized care- like psychiatric treatment or substance abuse treatment, the counseling services center can point them in the right direction.
Dr. Jaronski said students can always stop by the Counseling Services Center or call 330-941-3737 to set up an appointment.
In addition, students or professors who believe they're witnessing the signs of suicide in another student can reach out to the center. Counselors can then talk them through the process of approaching someone who might be in need.
While the new health center isn't set to open until next year, Dr. Jaronski said that there is hope that the expansion will mean big things for mental health access on campus.