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Special Commentary: SDSU students deserve better counseling and psychological services

by Trish Hyde

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My freshmen year, I came to San Diego from 1,500 miles away, knowing no one but my roommate, whom I had met on our class of 2020 Facebook page. That idea is terrifying for most people, but I found it exhilarating — at first anyways.

My chronic depression, which I had been dealing with since I was 15, was moderately under control with a regular dosage of antidepressants and knowing my mom was only a phone call away. I expressed some concerns early into first semester to my RA about my depression and after a particularly rough anxiety attack, she directed me to Counseling Services. After a 15 minute consultation in which I made it clear that I had a history of self-harm and suicidal thoughts, I was told that San Diego State could do nothing for me because I needed more long term help and they didn’t have any openings for the rest of the semester. It was October.

“Oh by the way, are you a danger to yourself or others?” I was asked right before the call ended. I thought it was a joke.

Was there nothing they could do? I thought about calling back and telling them that maybe I was a danger to myself and seeing if they would do anything then, but I ultimately decided that would probably get me removed from campus.

A year later, and I’m a sophomore living in on-campus housing and am experiencing extreme depression that I hadn’t experienced in years. It was terrifying. I called again and asked to make an appointment to talk to someone and, to my surprise, I was able to schedule one  — two weeks out mind you, but still an improvement from the last time.

I walked into the appointment thrilled at the prospect of working on my mental health. I sat in the office, and after revealing to the doctor that I was on antidepressants already she asked what I was doing there. I was caught off guard. I was just hoping I could talk to someone about the thoughts I’d been having. The doctor continued saying that she can’t help because she’s a psychiatrist who prescribes medications. I stumbled out of the room confused and upset up to the fourth floor of Calpulli where I attempted to make an appointment with a counselor. After looking in my file they determined again, that there was nothing they could do for me.

I understood I needed something more long-term, but I really just needed someone to talk to. I was told that they were sorry, but that they don’t want to start treatment here if I’m just going to have to restart somewhere else, and that they could give me some recommendations for counselors in the area based on my insurance.

As upset as I was that the counseling services seemed to never actually do any sort of counseling, I hoped that perhaps I could find someone not affiliated with the university to help me.

Unfortunately, all four numbers they gave me were not accepting new patients for approximately two months out. I guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t a danger to myself or others because then SDSU would have a real liability on their hands.

I, however, am just one of many students who have tried to access the “services available” through the Counseling and Psychological Services. According to the Wright State University of Medicine, depression rates among U.S. college students have doubled and suicide rates tripled in the last 15 years.Why are students with severe mental health concerns treated with such little regard? If SDSU wants to continue to pride themselves on having such a forward-thinking counseling and psychological services center, they need to spend more time listening to the concerns of students and actually helping, rather than paying for massage chairs to be added to their office. A massage chair won’t prevent me from self-harm.

And the real kicker? Because I had come to the Counseling and Psychological Services Center in the past with concerns about my mental health, I came home yesterday to find a “Sophomore Year Survival Guide” left by them. What advice did it include? Some of my personal favorites were “Study hard! Drink less!” “Focus on school, not boys!” and “Just believe in yourself.”

Ah yes, thank you SDSU, these cured my depression.   

Trish Hyde is a sophomore studying international business.

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3 Responses to “Special Commentary: SDSU students deserve better counseling and psychological services”

  1. anon on April 11th, 2018 6:34 pm

    The reason why its impossible to book an appointment is because of all the school mandated ASPIRE program for people who are caught in precarious situations with alcohol. It takes up a huge amount of resources in the counseling center. Reason for this could be because for each student caught, they have to pay $100 for the classes….

  2. Emily on April 12th, 2018 12:00 pm

    YES. I am not an SDSU student or alumnus, but I made use of SDSU’s community counseling and engagement center for community members. My therapist was problematic for so many reasons. I was told that yogurt is a preferable substitute for antidepressants. It was insinuated that I don’t have any real friends. I was taken to what I now know to be the first step of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy process but then was told that I should be able to take the rest of the steps on my own. Therefore, I was hyper-aware (and constantly reminded by my therapist) of all of my self-destructive thoughts and behaviors but was only given one tool: a worksheet to complete on my own without reflection with him. There were lots more comments and incidents that were harming rather than helpful, and by the end, I stopped seeing him because my suicidal ideation had returned after years of dormancy (in large part brought back to life thanks to the “therapy” I was receiving).

  3. Anonymous on April 24th, 2018 12:36 pm

    Yes, this is something that should not be overlooked.

    Getting a therapist is a long process but it also is a thoughtful one- Counseling Services needs to put more effort in matching therapists and providing students with the care they need based on their own mental health, not based on a worksheet they filled out prior to booking an appointment. I went in for a few sessions and immediately felt unwelcome after one particular session where my therapist asked me why I was even there (???). I understand that other people are waiting to have a session scheduled too but having anxiety, that one statement just made me leave my sessions and never want to come back because I felt so worthless for wanting to seek help for myself and for just wanting someone to talk to.

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