Section: News

Peer Counselors report rise in appointment requests

Peer Counselors report rise in appointment requests

At Kenyon, and at colleges across the nation, more students are turning to counseling centers and student groups for help with mental health issues. According to a 2010 survey conducted by the American College Health Association, more than half of college students said they felt “overwhelming anxiety” in a 12-month period, and 32 percent stated they felt so depressed “that it was difficult to function.” While more Kenyon students are looking to the Counseling Center for help — 17 percent more students have seen counselors this September, compared to last September — the Peer Counselors (PCs) have also seen increased demand for their services.

“We’re trying to figure out how to best respond to that, because we haven’t changed our approach, it’s just the response we’ve been getting has been different,” PC Sean Deryck ’18 said. “We have noticed that we’ve become a much more heavily-relied-on resource this semester.”

The rising demand for PC services this year correlates with changes in the Counseling Center’s appointment process, which allows students to see counselors on a “first-come, first-serve” basis, rather than through recurring appointments. No PCs interviewed, however, thought their increased load was a direct result of Counseling Center policy changes. They instead cited increased advertising or lower stigmas surrounding mental health as possible factors.

One of the most noticeable changes PCs are experiencing, according to PC Officer Thais Henriques ’17, is the large number of people requesting individual sessions, either during office hours or on the PCs’ own time. In past years, Henriques said, the PCs would get 15 hours of appointments per week; this year, one week had up to 17 hours of appointments.

“It’s been heavier from the start,” Henriques said. “Usually at the start of the year we just don’t see much.”

PC Officer Hallie Schulwolf ’17 said the PCs have been getting four to six times as many calls placed to their 24/7 phone extension. Schulwolf, who leads one of the PC small groups on depression, also mentioned that the group sessions are drawing more of an audience.

Staff from the Counseling Center have met with the PCs recently to communicate how to best handle increased demands for mental health services across the board.

“In our talks with [Counselor] Lindsay [Miller], she does mention that there is a higher need or more pressed demand for counseling services within the Counseling Center, and what we can provide on the side,” Deryck said.

Miller, the PC staff advisor, emphasized that the Counseling Center is available for any PCs who need assistance counseling students. “PCs are trained by the Counseling Center, so [in a] situation in which they need guidance or support or help, they are encouraged to seek that help from the Counseling Center,” she said.

As liaisons between the student body and the Counseling Center, PCs can help relay any concerns students may have about any matter, including the new Counseling Center appointment system, to the counselors.

“My biggest fear would be that people feel that resource is not there for them,” Schulwolf said. “I think one of the most confusing parts of this new way they’re organizing things now is that it appears as though people can’t get appointments but I … trust Kenyon that they’re not going to let people fall through the cracks.”

Both Henriques and Schulwolf see the increased utilization of counseling and PC services as a positive change. “We love it when people use us,” Henriques said. “I don’t think anyone should be discouraged from coming to us just because we’ve been getting more [contacts].” Schulwolf said any students unable to get immediate appointments at the Counseling Center should feel free to attend a small group session facilitated by a counselor, in order to receive therapy while waiting for a one-on-one session.

Students can speak to PCs through their 24/7 hotline (740-398-3806), or schedule a walk-in appointment during PC Office Hours, held in the Counseling Center from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday, and 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.


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