Mental health: it’s a topic we’ve discussed before — and it’s a topic we will continue to discuss until we see Lehigh make it a priority. Let’s talk about it.
With midterms coming to an end and spring break beginning next week, we think it’s important that we take a moment to check in on one another.
How are you doing? How are you feeling? How are you handling the semester?
Answers will vary, of course, and you may not always be satisfied with your own responses — regardless, these mental health check-ins are an important part of better understanding yourself and those around you. Despite its importance, Lehigh has fallen short when it comes to keeping its students happy and healthy in this regard.
While Lehigh continues to invest in building new on-campus facilities and holding events targeted at alumni and prospective students, other areas are noticeably lacking — specifically mental health support at the Lehigh Counseling and Psychological Services (UCPS). Not only have students noticed this lack of support, but counselors at the center have as well.
We’ve raised these concerns before, and the issues persist. So we ask you again, Lehigh: Why are you continuing to put money toward those who no longer (or have never) walked across our campus if you can’t support the students who are currently here? Why are you not protecting us?
When in need of help, students are met with long waitlists, not nearly enough counselors and a limited number of sessions before being turned away to outside resources — resources that are costly, inconvenient and thus, unrealistic for many students.
Signing up for an appointment with the UCPS is a big first step for some struggling students. Outsourcing feels even more overwhelming, which decreases the likelihood that someone who needs help would go out and get it.
Not to mention, the UCPS currently has four staff psychologists available. The standard ratio of mental health professionals to students is advised to be one to approximately 1,000 to 1,500 students. If the school is planning to expand the student population and mental health discussion continues to be as pressing as it has been, it is necessary to add additional counselors to the UCPS.
Lehigh can take action on this, yet the mental health of current students seems to be one of the last things on their list of priorities.
For example, while the majority of services and classes on campus have been in person since last semester, counseling services continue to be held virtually.
We’ve heard “masks cause a disconnect” to explain this, but not even being in the same room as your counselor is worse. Appointments over Zoom may affect what students feel comfortable sharing because of things like roommates present in the background or difficulty finding a private space.
With all of this in mind, spring break is almost here — the first we’ve had since the initial outbreak of COVID-19.
A lot has changed since then; mental health, for many, has been a struggle since lockdowns began and some still find themselves dealing with the effects of it two years later.
Take Stanford soccer player Katie Meyer, for example, who led her team to the 2019 national championship, and was found dead in early March in an on-campus residence. Her parents confirmed she died by suicide. Her parents said they saw “no red flags” before her death and also stated that she was hiding her mental health struggles.
Mental health affects all of us — and that’s why it’s so important that Lehigh makes these essential changes.
With a lack of resources to turn to on campus, take this break as an opportunity to reset and recharge before classes start up again. But, also take this as an opportunity to start checking in with your peers and friends more often; see how they’re doing, see how they’re feeling and be someone who can listen when they need it. And when classes resume, we encourage professors to do so as well.
It’s time for change at Lehigh, but until then it’s in our control to help one another. You may never know when people need you the most if you don’t ask.