Counseling Services at Southern Adventist University is designed to help students through a wide variety of academic, relational and mental health issues, according to
Ric Griffin, a licensed counselor who works there.
“It’s important to keep our mental health as good as our physical health,” Griffin said. “[We’ve talked] about physical health for years, and people are exercising and getting sleep. But now we need to talk about mental and emotional health as well. We need those parts of us to be in tune just like our physical health.”
Southern offers free services for a variety of mental challenges, with the most common being depression and anxiety, according to Griffin.
“[The most common mental health issue] was depression when I first started here,” he said. “But it’s now more anxiety, which often is the precursor to depression.”
Counseling Services also serves students struggling with loss and grief, as well as relationship issues. Griffin said some roommates come in with problems, and recently-single individuals come in for help through break-ups. For couples looking to be married in the future, premarital counseling is available.
According to a 2019 study done by the American Psychological Association, 80% of college presidents said student mental health has become a greater priority on their campuses than it was three years earlier. Seventy-two percent said they would allocate more funds to mental health services, and 58% said that they would hire additional staff to help, mostly dealing with campus counseling services. Higher education across the country has begun to take a more critical look at mental health and how it is affecting the lives of students.
Not much has changed at Southern’s Counseling Department due to COVID-19, though more students have taken advantage of the services, according to Griffin. He said there is now an extra step for signing up. Students go through an intake process to see what would best suit their needs and are then referred for either counseling or academic student support based on their individual situations.
“We’re trying to get an idea of what they really need,” Griffin said. “If it’s a counselor, we will then start making an appointment. Students can also be referred to Career Counseling and Disability Support Services this way.”