Mary Walker Health Center experiences increase in student counseling wait list


A lack of staff at the Mary Walker Health Center has increased student wait time for counseling services.

“We are down somewhat in counselor staffing and hope to have some part-time counselors on board within the next two weeks,” said Pam Branshaw-Drumm, interim director of Mary Walker Health Center.

Twenty-five students will stay on the wait list for two weeks before their first appointment, according to Branshaw-Drumm.

“Current counseling staff are working overtime to see students who have requested appointments,” Branshaw-Drumm said.“Hopefully we will eliminate or greatly reduce the individual counseling waitlist.”

For two years, Mary Walker Health Center has developed its graduate internship program with the Counseling and Psychological Services Department to address the high demand for treatment.

“At the Counseling Center we are always looking for improved means to better serve our students,” Branshaw-Drumm said. “Continuing to expand the graduate internship program is one of our goals at the center.”

Alternatives to the counseling center are provided to Oswego State students at no cost.

The crisis hours for the center are from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. After hours, students can connect with professional mental health experts through the crisis hotline.

The Let’s Talk program, a walk-in counseling initiative, is provided on Wednesdays in Oneida Hall from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and in Johnson Hall from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“This program is a solution focused, problem solving consultation session,” Branshaw-Drumm said. “No appointment is necessary.”

Branshaw-Drumm explained that when appointments are skipped, at-risk students are delayed in their treatment.

“It is really important for students to keep their counseling session appointments,” Branshaw-Drumm said. “When a student does not show up for a session it takes up a valuable counseling slot that could be used by another student.”

In an effort to improve mental health relations across campus, Peer2Peer Educator and sophomore Jennifer Hernandez utilizes awareness programs and meditation tools to help offer support to distressed students.

“It’s okay to use these resources. That’s why we have it on campus,” Hernandez said. “If a student comes up to us, we are willing to listen. I am willing to give a hand or be a friend. It’s not out of the ordinary to feel depressed.”

Despite the on-campus services, some students continue to suffer in silence.

After three weeks on the list, sophomore software engineering major Melvin Rodriguez is waiting for his first counseling session.

“It’s ridiculous how long it is,” Rodriguez said. “During the course of three weeks to try and heal mental and emotional pain is a little too long. There’s no way for that to recover on its own.”

Currently, Rodriguez is seeking short-term clinical treatment. He explained the hours of Mary Walker Health center are “limiting” as they conflict with his class schedule.

“You can only move your appointment closer under three conditions: if you are really going to hurt yourself, you’re going to kill yourself or you can’t study,” Rodriguez said.

In the case of a life threatening situation, Branshaw-Drumm ensures students can move up their meeting.

Meanwhile, without treatment, Rodriguez looks to his friends to provide him with emotional comfort.

“I have to seek other sources to vent out,” Rodriguez said. “I understand why they are understaffed.We are all college students with various amounts of stress. As a person I understand, [but] as a patient it’s really bad.”

During a two week span, Rodriguez experienced his first panic attack in a late afternoon computer science course.

“It was toward the end hours of Mary Walker,” Rodriguez said. “My heart started to race and my palms started to get sweaty. My knees started to buckle and I wanted to fade away.”

Sophomore Kimberly Anderson explained the low staffing has burdened her as she tries to help Rodriguez cope with stress.

“I have a lot of strong feelings about it,” Anderson said. “Knowing someone on that waiting list who actually needs help, it’s been stressful on him and on me. I get that they don’t have enough people to fill the need, but at the same time, I feel like they should.”

During the weekend, Rodriguez spoke to Anderson for several hours about his impending anxiety.

“He was looking for counseling from me and I can’t actually help him,” Anderson said. “It was really hard and mentally stressful on me.”

According to Branshaw-Drumm, additional staff members will be hired in the coming weeks.