Six years ago Castleton University had one mental health counselor. It now has one full-time counselor, two graduate intern counselors and two counselors who come to the university from Rutland almost every day of the week.
Martha Coulter, the director of the Wellness Center, is the full-time counselor on campus and she said there was a need for more help.
“We’ve had a great increase in the number of students seeking services,” she said.
In the 2007-2008 academic year, the wellness center saw 125 students for counseling. In the 2014-2015 academic year that number increased to 260 students. Coulter said that this increase corresponds a national increase among schools.
According to the 2014 National College Health Assessment, there’s been an increase of 29.6 percent in students seeking counseling but only a 5.6 percent increase in the number of students enrolled.
“We’ve got some students who are significantly distressed. We really match the national trends in that we do have a high degree of students who are feeling depressed and anxious, but we’re no higher than the rest of the country,” she said.
One of the goals of the Wellness Center has been to educate students about mental health and the services that are available.
“I feel like if I did have issues or I knew somebody who did, I could go and guide them in the right way or go there myself,” said senior communication student Jimmy Britt. “I feel like I understand the system here and I think it works well.”
The center has also trained 150 students who are part of the student support network. The training helps students to recognize when peers may be having difficulties and to support them in getting help.
And in an informal survey, eight out of 10 students said they are well aware of the services on campus.
“I think people are aware that it’s normal to seek assistance and support … People can recognize when there’s an issue and help people to get to a place where they can see a counselor,” Coulter said.
Castleton also has a support team of faculty and staff who are available for teachers to notify if there is a concern about a particular student. The team figures out who is the best person to contact the student and what the best course of action is.
“The genius in it is bringing all these people together so they can compare notes and figure out how to help students early and have a positive impact,” said Academic Dean Tony Peffer.
According to Peffer, the university’s retention rate has increased by 5 percent since the support team was implemented.
According to Coulter, the findings of the national study were that the demand for counseling has increased because people are feeling more comfortable seeking help.
“I think students are feeling more free in asking for assistance … The great news is that students are coming in for counseling,” Coulter said.