Written by Candace McKenzie
Eight or nine Millsaps students walk through the Student Life Services offices each day to meet with counselors about their mental wellbeing. Millsaps is one of many colleges that has increased access to mental health
services and resources as mental health issues are steadily rising, especially with college age students.
Due to the frequency of appointments, the office of Student Life Service
extends counseling to the weekend to be more accessible to students. This is
one of several improvements the college has made to the mental health services it provides students in recent years.
“If you need regular therapy that’s a part of your success, let’s pull that into your schedule,” said Demi Brown, Millsaps dean of student affairs. “If you need to be on regular medications for a while, let’s pull that into your support system because different people need different
things to be successful.”
More than one-third of first year university students in eight countries
report symptoms consistent with a diagnosable mental health disorder, according to the American Psychological Association. Leaders at Millsaps are working to adapt their services and policies as the need for mental health on campus continues to increase.
“Six counselors that are locally contracted with Millsaps handle the counseling sessions, and students can schedule an appointment by calling Student Life Services at 601-974-1206,” said Larcie Burnett, Student Life Services secretary. Additionally, students can reach Burnett directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment.
Student Life Services provides counseling services to cover issues such as stress management, sexual/physical abuse or assault, academic skills training, communication skills and anxiety. Additionally, there are tests available like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and the 16 Personality Factors Test to help identify strengths and areas for improvement in students. All counseling sessions and tests are confidential and free of charge unless an appointment is missed.
Discussing the Millsaps Care Team, Burnett shared that the Resident
Assistants, Campus Safety, and Student Life are all notified if a student is in what she called “a severe situation.” All three of these departments collaborate on the Millsaps campus to assist students in need. If students are uncomfortable meeting with counselors in Student Life Services, Brown said that students have the option to meet people in the community to
address privacy concerns.
“We’ve changed our space around to
be friendlier, so students don’t have to sit in a hallway anymore to wait on a
counselor, but we can find someone in the community to work with a student as well,” Brown said.
Working with a counselor in Student Life Services, Millsaps freshman Luna
Copeland is one student that is taking proactive steps towards her mental
health. Introduced by Katy Sorey to the free counseling sessions, Copeland shares a positive experience with her counselor,
“(Allister) is always super nice, and she listens,” Copeland said. “She always
comes to conclusions with these helpful packets and papers, and I think she may be able to help me.”
Other students, as Copeland shared, have not had the same positive experience with their counselors.
“I have talked with a few other people that don’t have her (Latasha Allister),
and they were begging to figure out who I go to because whoever they go to is only making things worse.”
Even though Copeland has had a great experience with her counselor, she
admits that the process of acquiring a counselor is difficult.
“I think maybe if I could think of anything it would be an easier way to get
to it,” Copeland said. “It took me a whole month to get a counselor. I knew Katie Sorey was in charge of these things, so I was able to get a counselor, but everyone doesn’t have that information.”
While the college has made improvements in recent years, Brown
said his department has more room to improve. Brown proposed an idea to
implement virtual counseling sessions to reach student athletes and students who may not live on the Millsaps campus.
“We’re looking at how we can acquire services for students to be able to
have Skype sessions with mental health professionals, so we’ve been in
conversations to incorporate it as an added component to the mental health services here,” Brown said.
Candidly expressing his opinion on Millsaps’ student body population,
Brown shared that Millsaps students are finding ways to ensure their mental well-being.
“A majority of our students are doing fantastic academically and socially, but we have students every year that have to figure out what works for them,” Brown said.