Letter to the Editor: UWL is failing students in crisis

Retrieved+from+NPR.org.

Retrieved from NPR.org.

Jake Richmond, Guest Contributor

​In my few short years at UWL, I have received far too many campus-wide emails detailing the premature deaths of my peers. These well-intentioned yet generic emails ring hollow to the hearts and minds of so many students who have been firsthand witnesses to the overwhelming mental health epidemic not only in our country but specifically within our age demographic. According to 2021 data recorded by Statista, nearly one-third of college students have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and one-fourth with depression—not to mention a plethora of other mental health disorders that have been compounded by the pandemic. It’s not like any of this data is surprising either, as many of us live with this reality daily and the dangers of inadequate mental health services have been well-documented for decades. Now, juxtapose this data with what UWL is actively doing (or not doing), and it will be sure to get your heart pumping. In the aftermath of multiple tragic student deaths within the past few years, UWL has done little to expand its mental health resources on campus and ensure students are supported. The hours at the Counseling and Testing Center are limited, there’s a lack of on-campus “after-hours” resources, and the center has been dragging its feet to return to in-person appointments and remains largely virtual in the era of COVID-19 —and we all know how well that worked for education, much less potentially life-saving therapy appointments. Additionally, some professors refuse to accommodate students with trauma or mental health concerns, further compounding the problem. Our university has chosen to take the reactive approach rather than taking the meaningful steps to be proactive and safeguard its most valuable asset: its student body.

​I’m calling on the university to publicly acknowledge its shortcomings in supporting students and pledge to fortify and expand mental health resources on campus by investing additional funds into the Counseling and Testing Center to hire more professionals, increase free or reduced-cost counseling, and lengthen its hours of operations to include around-the-clock care for students in crisis because most don’t happen conveniently between the hours of nine to five. I am also calling on professors to humanize students by recognizing how mental health strains student achievement and then striving to better accommodate students in crisis while also addressing these problems within the classroom. I am calling on students to not be afraid to speak out and demand the change they want to see within our campus community because it’s clear we must be the agents of change since those in power haven’t prioritized our best interests.