It is no secret that mental health is a concern on Wake Forest’s campus and on college campuses nationwide. According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is the top presenting concern among college students (61 percent) followed by depression (36.4 percent) and relationship problems (35.8 percent). Nearly 80 percent of college students experience stress on a daily basis. This is an issue all too prevalent at Wake Forest.
Students may joke about “Work Forest,” but it is true — studying until late in the night (or early in the morning), a lack of sleep and stress relief by way of alcohol and drug consumption do not lead to a healthy academic and social environment.
Last month, Student Government hosted “Mental Health Awareness Week” including events from an on-campus petting zoo to a talk by Michelle Williams on mental health. The week featured a sign reading #NotAlone on the lower quad. Bringing awareness to mental health is important, and destigmatizing it is an important step.
However, mental health is not just something to be talked about one week in the year and is not fixed by petting zoos and puppies on the Quad. College campuses, especially Wake Forest, foster environments that leave students under extreme amounts of stress regarding not only school, but their social lives. Wake Forest not only should provide more resources for students to turn to on campus, but also should take a look at the campus culture and pin-point issues with it.
On paper, Wake Forest has great resources for students — the University Counseling Center, the Care Team, Title IX, a 24/7 crisis hotline, etc. However, these resources are not always easily accessible to students, especially those who are not “in crisis.” At times, getting an appointment in the University Counseling Center can take weeks, and after a certain date in the spring semester, no appointments can be made (only walk-ins allowed). For students who need immediate, emergency aid, the 24/7 hotline and University Police are available. However, students who are in need of support on a consistent basis and are not in crisis mode are at a disadvantage.
We attend a top university in the country, a university that is aware of mental health concerns nationwide for college students and consistently discusses the importance of taking care of yourself, yet students do not have the means to always take care of their mental health. Getting an appointment to talk to an on-campus counselor should never take weeks. Having a conversation with a case manager at the CARE Team shouldn’t take months to work out. Students should have access to these resources as needed.
Resources on campus like Thrive have a strong educational component and sponsor various events, yet most of the events sponsored on campus are not preventative, nor target a systemic issue. Mental health is an on-going, structural problem that needs to be addressed constantly.
Wake Forest should be taking steps to combat mental health crises, like adding more counselors to the University Counseling Center and reexamining the “Work Forest” culture — not just academically, but socially.