Students criticize College’s policies regarding treatment of depression

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April 25, 2008

2:34 AM

After telling the Counselling Center that he was feeling depressed and having suicidal thoughts, Wyatt Hall ’09 was asked to leave the College temporarily.

Hall said he felt unsatisfied with the services provided by the Counseling Center after the incident.

“I feel that the Counseling Center did not provide the most appropriate response to the situation,” Hall said. Hall first went to the Counseling Center when he experienced suicidal thoughts during his freshman year. Though he was given some treatment on campus, the Counseling Center and the College administration both felt that his removal from campus would be the best solution.

While students have criticized the removal policy, the Counseling Center said that removal from campus is not the first step.

“A student is removed from campus only after it has been determined to be the optimal treatment plan,” Counseling Center Director R. Kelly Crace said. “If they are willing to engage in treatment and the scope of what we can provide is adequate, then it is best for them to stay here.”

Crace acknowledged that some students have been removed from campus, but he stressed that such removals occur only after other treatments have been deemed inadequate.

“The vast majority of emergency assessments … end up being treated at our center and they remain on campus,” Crace said.
One student, who spoke to The Flat Hat on the condition of anonymity, said she felt the counseling center pressured her to leave.

“I felt that [the dean] verbally attacked me as I wept silently. She said that she wanted me to leave the school,” the student said. “[The dean] said that I was a threat to my hallmates and that I was disturbing their learning environment.”

In the end, the student was allowed to stay at school under the condition that she attend regular therapy. She said things are better now.

“I ended up taking the fall semester off, started working full-time in Williamsburg and moved into an apartment with friends in Williamsburg. Now, I’m attending Thomas Nelson Community College and working. I’m doing very well.”

Hall said that while he feels the Counseling Center had his interests at heart, he believes that his removal from campus was not the best method of treatment.

“I believe that I was not safe at home because I was left alone in my house,” Hall said.

The other student felt similarly.

“I was afraid that I would become too idle at home,” she said. “I was beginning to feel like I belonged, and I wanted to prove that I belonged there. I thought my situation would be worse if I wasn’t in school.”

Crace said that occasionally students had other motives for not wanting to go home.

“There is also a difference between an unsafe home environment and not wanting to go home because of the fear that their condition will upset or disappoint their family,” she said.

In response to the negative feedback toward the Counseling Center, Crace said, “I am very open to critical feedback and seek to follow up with students who express concern about our services because it only serves us better.”

The anonymous student said that while she was not happy with the service she received, seeking counseling of some type is crucial.
“I would recommend that a depressed [or] suicidal student see a counselor, regardless of whether or not a depressed [or] suicidal student goes to the Counseling Center,” she said.

Hall also maintains concerns about some Counseling Center policies, but he still feels that people should visit the center if they need help. His one piece of advice for students who feel depressed or suicidal: “Don’t be ashamed.”

The William and Mary Counseling Center is open every day from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Blow Hall.

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