Student Counselling Services overloaded with clients

By in News

The University of Saskatchewan Student Counselling Services is a resource designed to aid students who are in need of mental health resources, but word reached the Sheaf that some students were recently denied access to counselling.

Student Counselling Services offers clinical services, educational programs and consultation for faculty and staff. All interested clients must seek consultation by filling out an information form and booking a phone intake appointment with staff to assess the client’s needs and concerns.

When first-year arts and science student Dee* sought out counselling services, she was told she was not eligible. Although she was provided with no specific reasons for her ineligibility, SCS staff explained that they receive a high volume of clients.

“This rejection made me feel even more worthless and stupid. Advisors, peer mentors and career counsellors at the university had recommended I seek out counselling services. And then, for them to reject me made me feel like I wasn’t worthy of their services. I was very upset after the intake call. I wanted to see a studentcounsellingcounsellor to talk about my worthlessness and I left the call feeling way more worthless than before,” Dee said.

In order for a student to be eligible for the counselling service, they must be registered at the university, currently enrolled in classes and must not be receiving counselling services from anywhere else. In addition, if they are seeking couple counselling, they must have a partner currently enrolled in classes.

However, as SCS manager Terrie Fitzpatrick explains, high-risk situations are prioritized and staff attempt to recognize the needs of clients and direct them to other resources, such as online therapists.

“Unfortunately, given high levels of requests for services, not all students will be referred to a clinician at Student Counselling. We also recommend other types of resources and suggest referrals. For example, if the primary issue is addictions, we would refer the student to Mental Health and Addiction Services,” Fitzpatrick said, in an email to the Sheaf.

Brittany*, first-year arts and science student, was also dismissed from clinical services and was encouraged to use her father’s health plan for off-campus counselling.

“I haven’t tried other counsellors yet because I’m not even sure where to start. But I think I definitely would in the near future if I don’t get in here [at SCS] again,” Brittany said.

There is no fee for the clinical services provided by Student Counselling Services. In comparison, if students seek off-campus clinical services, and if they are subscribed to the U of S Students’ Union health plan, they will have 80 per cent coverage on appointments, with up to $750 per policy year.

According to Fitzpatrick, the demand for counselling services has grown substantially in recent years.

“Increasingly severe mental health concerns, including higher reported rates of anxiety, depression and suicidality, have led to unprecedented requests for service at university counselling centers across North America,” Fitzpatrick said.

She also explains that SCS wants to support students and that they are currently deciding how to increase the capacity of their services.

“Demand has exceeded resources in most counselling centres, including here at the U of S. It becomes very difficult to meet the needs of all our students. The staff at SCS want to help our students succeed and wish we had the resources to meet the needs of more of our students right here on campus,” Fitzpatrick said.

Although resources are tight, Brittany encourages students to seek out counselling.

“I think that even if there is a possibility that you won’t get in [for clinical services], that you should keep trying because it is worth it if you do get in,” Brittany said.

Dee adds that she understands that clinical services are highly sought after, but she feels it is unfortunate that many students are not able to access this resource.

“It is not right that this is happening. So many students are probably slipping through the cracks and that makes me really sad. Student counselling services is a service that every single student deserves.”

*To respect the privacy of the individuals interviewed, their names have been changed.

Nykole King

Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor