SUNY Plattsburgh expands access to student mental health services

Kristi Mink, Assistant Director of Counseling Services, State University of New York Plattsburgh. (Photo: SUNY Plattsburgh website)

Celia ClarkSUNY Plattsburgh expands access to student mental health services

SUNY Plattsburgh is expanding mental health services for students in the face of what is widely seen as a mental health crisis, especially among young people.

Federal coronavirus aid funds expansion. But the pandemic is not the only reason for the increased demand.

Kristi Mink is one of the directors of Counseling Services at SUNY Plattsburgh. Over the past two years, she said, demand has risen 38 percent.

“We are seeing huge demand in counseling centres. We had a very difficult time keeping up with the demand,” she said.

Minck said they are using about $100,000 in federal funding to do three things to meet students’ mental health needs. They have already hired a psychiatric nurse practitioner to administer the medication. They will provide 24/7 remote counseling and crisis care after hours and will specifically recruit a new counselor to see students after normal business hours.

Students feel more disconnected. “I think they feel lonelier,” she said.

The pandemic certainly played a role in the increased need, Mink said.

They are facing more academic challenges because the shift in learning over the past two years has been difficult for them to transition, from Zoom learning online to learning in the classroom has been very difficult and challenging for the students.”

But she said the pandemic is not the only reason for the changes.

Over the past 17 years, what have you seen? I’ve seen students come in with more students who actually come with a history of treatment for mental health issues. More students are coming in with multiple mental health diagnoses.”

They mean that a student may be suffering from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress. She said she is seeing more students who are already taking medication for mental health reasons. She says this isn’t necessarily a bad sign.

More students are coming to campus because we have medicine. Whereas 20 or 30 years ago these students might not have been able to work and succeed on campus, now they are able to succeed on campus.”

Mink said she worries about long-term funding for mental health services because state funding for SUNY schools has been tight for so long. But she thinks her campus makes it a priority now.

Last fall, the State University of New York announced $24 million for mental health and wellness services across the state system.

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