Free counseling services provide help for students

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The Student Counseling Center’s doors are always open to those who need help.

“I would say we are pretty steady right now,” said Lauren Schuur, coordinator of preventative services at USD’s Student Counseling Center. “Our numbers are increasing on a weekly basis to numbers we haven’t had before.”

Schuur said students can take advantage of resources to deal with stress at the SCC located on-campus near the Arts & Sciences building in the Cook House. She said students can call or email the center to schedule an appointment.

The SCC is a resource for students dealing with anything from stress to crises.

Kelly Duncan is an associate professor in the counseling and psychology department at the School of Education.

“Everybody goes through normal transitions in life that can be difficult, and it’s a sign of strength to reach out during those times and try to get help,” Duncan said.

Duncan said transitions such as coming to school, dealing with their first exams or getting ready to enter the real world to turn to the counseling services offered at USD.

The Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State University released its annual report earlier this month. The report showed the top reasons for students seeking mental health services in college. Anxiety, depression, relationship problems and stress were among the top reasons cited in the report.

The study also indicated the average student who sought mental health services attended 4.75 sessions.

More than one option

Duncan is also the director of the Counseling and School Psychological Services Clinic on-campus. She says their clinic is the same type of experience students would get at the SCC, just with students doing the counseling.

The clinic often handles cases of academic probation to get students back on track toward academic success.

“We have a really close relationship with academic advising, so we see a lot of students who are on academic probation,” Duncan said.

Students who work in the clinic are often training to be school counselors. They provide counseling services to the school and community free of charge under instructor supervision. Students who are in crisis, however, are best served by the SCC.

The SCC is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Schuur said students in crisis can walk in anytime during business hours. Last semester the SCC averaged three to four walk-ins each week.

After hours, students in crisis — or their friends — can contact the University Police Department, who will coordinate with the on-call counselor. If the student is on-campus, the counselor can meet them wherever they are. If they are off-campus, students often come on-campus for services.

Schuur said a strong relationship with University Housing has helped them deal with crises.

“(Community Advisers) go through a lot of training, and we are a part of quite a bit of it,” Schuur said. “I provide them the suicide prevention class. We talk about just the stresses and anxiety of college, alcohol and drug problems.”

They are trained during the summer and again during winter break. She said CAs often walk students over to the SCC during a crisis to find support.

The SCC is also a level-one outpatient alcohol and drug center. Students often complete courses or services after a DUI or other alcohol-related offense.

Schuur also goes across campus to different classes and organizations to teach suicide prevention and alcohol and drug use prevention courses.

Always there to help

Once the SCC fills up, overflow is often sent to the clinic.

While the SCC is only for students registered at USD, the clinic is for the entire community.

“There is kind of a shortage of counseling services in this area,” Duncan said. “Plus, the counseling services are free.”

Duncan and Schuur both said getting services from the SCC or clinic is a great deal in college because there is no cost.

“It’s not something that you’re going to find for free once you’re done with college,” Schuur said.

Duncan estimates the marketplace for counseling services average around $120 per session outside USD.

To lessen the stigma of mental health services, Duncan equates it to handling physical health problems such as going to the physician’s office.

“You do what you needed to do for your physical health in order to be successful and happy,” Duncan said. “Why wouldn’t you want to do the same for your emotional well-being and mental health?”

Schuur also said counseling serves another purpose.

“It’s also a great time to learn about yourself and grow as an individual,” Schuur said.

Editor’s Note: The Volante highlighted two of three counseling services on campus. The University of South Dakota’s psychology department also runs the Psychological Services Center as another counseling resource for students.