Concord University hired a second counselor after finding high rates of anxiety, loneliness and depression in students and seeing an increase in demand for counseling services.
“It’s really heartbreaking to know that our students are struggling,” Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Sarah Beasley said. “We want to be able to provide whatever services we can to help them be successful students, both on campus and off campus after they’ve graduated from Concord.”
In 2021, Concord began a comprehensive mental health initiative that included the creation of a mindfulness room, a mental health committee and educational workshops.
“We saw a real demand for mental health counseling on campus,” Beasley said. “We had a waitlist of students who needed help.”
Every two years, colleges across the country participate in the National College Health Assessment. At Concord, more than 25 percent of students scored high on the suicide behavior survey.
“We saw things like anxiety and depression, high rates of those on campus and knew we needed to get our students more help,” Beasley said. “So we were able to hire a second counselor, who also teaches within our social work program, too.”
The newly hired counselor will also teach classes within the Social Work Department.
“It’s the right thing to do to provide those services to students, but it also helps with retention,” Beasley said. “If students aren’t mentally healthy, then they’re not going to be successful in the classroom, they’re more likely to stay on campus.”
Across the country mental health needs for students are rising.
“I think most [in higher education] would say one of the number one issues outside the classroom is mental health issues,” Beasley said. “Unfortunately, we tend to see a bit higher rates of mental health issues, given the population in southern West Virginia, and some of the issues surrounding poverty and more folks here have experienced adverse childhood experiences, which can lead to mental health issues.”
The demand for more mental health services could also indicate a more accepting culture towards these services though Beasley says there’s still more work to do.