Last week, Wake Forest Student Government hosted a week of activities, conversations and educational opportunities devoted to mental health. Activities during Mental Health Week, which was held in conjunction with Thrive’s Signs of Stress Week, included yoga, puppies on the quad and a petting zoo on Manchester Plaza.
While the Editorial Board of Old Gold & Black applauds Student Government for getting the conversation started regarding the mental health issues that students face on campus, we believe that there are urgent next steps that the university must presently take in order to fix systemically embedded problems.
Particularly, the university should invest more resources in the Counseling Center, where wait times for a 30-minute appointment can be days or, in some cases, even weeks. While the Counseling Center and Student Health have some immediate resources for students in crisis situations, students should also have access to prompt non-emergency care.
Furthermore, as the university works to prioritize racial and socioeconomic diversity in admissions, it should also work to prioritize the wellbeing of students of color and other marginalized identities once they arrive at Wake Forest.
Specifically, the university should hire counselors from varied racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds and with diversity in gender identity and sexual orientation. If students have counselors that they can relate to, it is more likely that they will have healthier mental health outcomes and more successful careers at Wake Forest. The university should also incentivize counselors to stay at Wake Forest long-term so that there is greater consistency and stability in the Counseling Center.
Wake Forest made a tremendous financial commitment to these principles when it constructed Reynolds Gymnasium, one significant component of which is the Wake Forest Wellbeing Center. In early 2018, President Nathan Hatch made a statement regarding the Wake Forest Wellbeing Center: “We seek to educate the whole person at Wake Forest, and this new facility encourages and provides many opportunities to pursue holistic wellbeing.”
In order to fully realize the goal of “holistic wellbeing,” increased financial commitment to counselors and counseling services is paramount, as mental health plays an essential role in the complete wellbeing that the university hopes to ensure for its students.