More than 50 College of William and Mary students attended a HOPE-sponsored panel on the Counseling Center. The purpose of this event — held Feb. 3 in Commonwealth Auditorium — was to both “destigmatize” students’ perceptions of the Counseling Center and encourage students in need to seek help from counselors.
The event began with hosts Marisa Paipongna ’17 and Thomas Le ’17 of HOPE asking audience members about their comfort level regarding help from the Counseling Center. Next, the two revealed statistics about the Counseling Center.
Paipongna and Le’s presentation included the number of students who go to the Counseling Center every school year. The most common reasons behind student visits are binge drinking and suicidal thoughts.
“From the 2013-2014 school year, over 1,100 students made initial appointments, and also take note that since 2008, there [has] been a steady increase in students going to the Counseling Center for a variety of purposes such as individual counseling, couples counseling and others,” Le said. “People have had various experiences and gone through various things before they go to the Counseling Center, so not everyone has gone through the same struggles or same issues.”
In the second half of the presentation, students Victor Garcia ’17 and Joanna Hernandez ’16 talked about their experiences with the Counseling Center and implored students in need to seek help from the counselors.
“I care so much about being able to acknowledge that we are a community that is hurting and that is okay. And that there are people that look very happy and might be doing Zumba or doing any number of things and that is awesome,” Hernandez said. “Those people are also probably hurting to some extent. And how many times have we told our friends to go to the Counseling Center? It’s a great place. If you’re really struggling, go. But we have been unable to do that and make that step for our own selves. And that is really where the change happens. Are you really able to seek the help you need?”
The event ended with a question-and-answer session with staff and doctoral interns from the Counseling Center and Dean’s Office. The initial questions concerned rumors that the Counseling Center can force students to leave campus and prevent them from reenrolling. Other questions centered on the staff’s ability to deal with the large number of students who come for help throughout the school year.
“At many times students say, ‘Don’t tell them if you have suicidal thoughts because they send you home,”’ Associate Director Carina Sudarsky-Gleiser said. “So if 30 percent of the students we see we are sending home or never coming back, your classes would be empty, the Rec Center would have a lot of machines you wouldn’t need to wait for, we [wouldn’t] have any problems scheduling people for as many appointments as they want. The truth is that when we recommend that someone goes to the hospital, it is because the likelihood that they would harm themselves or harm others is so high that if they don’t go home or to the hospital, they will no longer be with us.”
The Counseling Center can be found on the second floor of Blow Memorial Hall and is available for free to any student in need of emotional or mental support.