Throughout a semester, college students endure a number of stressful situations. With lengthy papers piling up and another test always around the corner, mental health can become a lesser priority. For times like these, Mississippi State offers more services than an overwhelmed student might guess.
MSU’s Department of Health Promotion and Wellness, home of Student Counseling Services, aims to engage students through initiatives to promote mental, physical and social wellbeing. The department educates students in an entire spectrum of health issues, including alcohol, drugs, fitness, nutrition, sexual health, stress management, sleep hygiene and violence prevention.
In terms of mental health, Department of Health Promotion and Wellness most significantly addresses topics of anxiety, depression and suicide prevention.
Kim Kavalsky, Student Counseling Services’ Coordinator of Mental Health Outreach, uses her background as a licensed professional counselor and both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MSU to serve her alma mater and help students. To advertise what the Student Counseling Services has to offer students, Kavalsky has presented to classes, student organizations, Greek life and more.
“I make an effort to take out the mystery of counseling and talk about the services that the counseling center provides,” Kavalsky said. “I find many students are unaware of where the counseling center is located and that it is free.”
Additionally, Kavalsky plans outreach events to raise awareness of suicide prevention, such as the annual backpack display on the Drill Field representing the number of college students lost to suicide each year. According to Kavalsky, this is estimated to be around 1,100 students.
In addition to this, the Department of Health Promotion and Wellness partners with Student Counseling Services each year to provide free, anonymous mental health screenings in the Colvard Student Union that gives students the opportunity to meet with a clinician in a space in which they are familiar. “Checkup from the Neck Up,” a mini mental examination, is one of the screenings and is offered on a scheduled date during the fall semester.
Student Counseling Services provides individual, group and couples therapy. All of these confidential services are free to students.
Individual therapy typically consists of 50-minute sessions with a clinician (either a counselor, social worker or psychologist) once a week or once every two weeks. The session’s length varies from student to student. On average, students are seen for four to six sessions a semester.
Group therapy ranges from rooms of four to twelve students. Based on student needs, these sessions can be either psychoeducational or process oriented. More information on the group therapy sessions can be found on the department’s website. Student Counseling Services also hosts “Wellness U” workshops, which teach a variety of subjects to students. These are short, 50-minute seminars on numerous topics.
To schedule an appointment, students can call (662) 325-2091 or stop by Hathorn Hall. Crisis walk-in services are available Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. If a crisis occurs after hours, students can speak with a counselor by calling the aforementioned number.
The MSU Psychology Clinic is another source of mental health help on campus The nonprofit is open to the Starkville community and surrounding areas.
The clinic staff is composed of students within the American Psychology Association’s Ph.D. program within the psychology department. These clinicians are supervised by licensed mental health professionals.
The clinic offers comprehensive psychological assessment services, individual therapy, relationship therapy, family therapy and group therapy services for children, adolescents and adults. Group services include mindfulness meditation and pain management. It also offers specialty services, such as behavioral sleep medicine and parent management training.
While the clinic is generally open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, the staff is willing to work with its students’ busy schedules. It does not accept walk-in appointments, so visitors must first call at (662) 325-0270 to complete a “phone screen.” The phone screen is a short questionnaire completed over the telephone in which the client tells clinic staff about his/her concerns. After this process, the clinic committee reviews the screen and pairs the individual with a clinician. The selected clinician will then contact the client and schedule an appointment.
Emily Stafford, Director of the MSU Psychology Clinic, believes the student-run operation fits in perfectly with MSU’s origins.
“The psychology clinic fits with the university’s overall mission of being a land grant institution,” Stafford said. “We strive to serve the community by providing quality mental healthcare to the region.”
The MSU Psychology Clinic does come with a price tag, but it works on a sliding fee scale depending on the individual’s income.
Lastly, MSU is home to its own student chapter of Active Minds, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the conversation about mental health.
Members of Active Minds can often be found passing out motivational pamphlets and holding events to raise awareness of mental illnesses and other important issues. The group partners with the Department of Health Promotion and Wellness for the Drill Field backpack event each year.
Alexis Wilson, Active Minds’ president, took on the role to become a helping hand in the ongoing change on campus when it comes to mental health.
“I personally know what it is like to struggle with mental health and when I heard about Active Minds, I knew that I had to become a member,” Wilson said. “I had to be a voice for those who are scared or embarrassed to speak up.”
Students interested in joining Active Minds only need to attend a meeting and add themselves to the GroupMe list or follow the organization on social media.
Treasurer Alana Buchanan is grateful for the impact joining Active Minds has had on her life.
“A little kindness goes a long way,” Buchanan said. “Personally, I believe it has made me more open to talking about what we all face as far as struggles go.”
Across the country, campus counseling services have seen an increased demand for mental health services. MSU offers multiple mental health outlets in the hopes which those struggling will find the option that best suits them.