Tang Center Increases On-Campus Presence of Counseling Services

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Due to increased awareness of mental health issues among college students, the Tang Center is expanding counseling services this year by improving outreach efforts on campus, officials said.

Gloria Saito, director of training at Counseling and Psychological Services, said the center has hired more staff and increased its campus presence to adapt to what she said is an increased need for counseling services.

"I certainly think students are way more stressed than they used to be," Saito said. "My impression is that the number of students actually facing problems has increased."

According to Saito, the center saw the number of students using counseling services increase by 18 percent to more than 3,100 students. Additionally, the number of counseling visits increased by 56 percent to more than 14,500 sessions, from the 2004-05 to the 2007-08 academic year.

In response, the center has instituted satellites-counselors who work outside the Tang Center at campus locations such as the Cesar Chavez Student Center.

The UC Board of Regents approved an additional $8 million in mental health funding for the university in October. The funding, which comes from registration fee increases this academic year, goes toward the increased staff and services.

The percentage of students who take medical leave from school due to mental illness also increased from 50 to 60 percent since the spring 2007 semester, said Paula Flamm, manager of social services at the center. She said between 110 and 120 students apply for medical withdrawal each year.

But the jump in medical withdrawals is not as considerable as the increase of students going in for counseling, she said.

"It's gone up a little, but not as much as one might think ... considering the numbers going in for counseling has increased," Flamm said. "Maybe because people are going in for counseling, they don't need to withdraw. They get the help they need."

Lonnie Snowden, a UC Berkeley professor in the School of Public Health, said the shootings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University brought attention to mental illness on college campuses. He added that the troubled economy and a greater acceptance of those who seek counseling could lead to a higher demand for counseling services.

"The decrease in the economy, I suspect, is producing more stress, which might be leading to an increase in problems," Snowden said. "The decrease in stigma is leading (people) to go and seek help."

For Kim LaPean, communications manager for University Health Services, the increase in demand for counseling services was not necessarily due to a greater need for services, but rather to effective outreach efforts on behalf of the center.

"I think people are more willing to seek help," she said.

UC Berkeley sophomore Mani Ramachandran said he goes to counseling regularly and that he learned of the counseling services at the Tang Center through a friend who was seeing a counselor there.

"Everyone who goes thinks they have a major stressor," he said. "I'd say a lot of (students) have problems."

In order to benefit as many students as possible, Saito said the center will be continuing to hire new staff.

"We're really trying to reach students as much as we can, when they need it," she said.


Contact Tess Townsend at [email protected]

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