Mental Health Services Change at YSU

Student Counseling Services have virtual short-term counseling services this semester. Photo by Abigail Cloutier/The Jambar

By Abigail Cloutier

Youngstown State University’s mental health services have changed since last semester. Some services, like the Community Counseling Center, have decreased offerings, while Student Counseling Services has added additional support during the pandemic.

Ann Jaronski, director of Counseling Services and a licensed psychologist, is one of two clinical counselors employed in the department. 

“We’ve been talking to students for the last couple of weeks; this has been an enormous change in a short amount of time,” Jaronski said. “Yes, we are close to six months into this right now, it’s not in the acute phase anymore … but absolutely, students are experiencing and dealing with the changes in a lot of different ways.”

Student Counseling Services have virtual short-term counseling services this semester. Photo by Abigail Cloutier/The Jambar

Counseling Services reopened short-term therapy after switching to a refer-only model last semester, due to time and budget constraints.

“We never wanted to just have to assess and refer, so being able to provide therapy is important,” she said. “There wasn’t a lot of discussion, it [was] just ‘Okay, we’re coming back in the fall and this is what we’re going to do.’”

Jaronski felt it was important to assess students and offer short-term therapy this semester. 

Anne Lally, assistant director of Counseling Services, said the university is starting an anxiety support group for students. Students must first be assessed by counseling services, and must be able to attend every meeting on Fridays. 

“Student Counseling Services would like to invite you to join us in a supportive, confidential environment where you can learn and practice strategies,” the statement said. “We will identify symptoms, discuss useful strategies for managing anxiety, practice relaxation techniques, [and] share successes.”

In addition to referring to outside resources if the student needs long-term counseling, Jaronski’s office partnered with Protocall, a telephone behavioral health facility, to provide an after-hours crisis line.

“So after hours or on a weekend … the student can call Counseling Services and press one to get connected to a live mental health professional who can assess what’s going on,” Jaronski said. 

She said the benefit of utilizing the crisis line versus a national suicide hotline is the service is an extension of YSU.

“YSU Student Counseling does get a report, so we are able to have a better understanding of what our students are experiencing and what, if any, follow up might be needed,” she said. 

In the past, the Community Counseling Center offered weekly counseling with a master’s student under a licensed counselor’s supervision. Appointments were restricted by a number of factors, like the severity of mental health issues or the number of students enrolled in the class that can offer services. 

But this semester, the clinic is only offering services to “[Course] 1587 students for Fall 2020,” according to the clinic’s voicemail. In Youngstown State University’s course catalogue, 1587 is an introductory counseling class that examines wellness. The voicemail recommended students who needed mental health assistance should contact the Help Network of Northeast Ohio, Coleman Professional Services or Alta Counseling for child-related mental health services. Coleman offers counseling, behavioral health and psychiatric assistance for low-income or uninsured students.

According to Victoria Kress, director of the CCC, the clinic is offering telehealth services this semester.

In the 2018-2019 academic year, the two licensed clinicians with Counseling Services saw 359 clients — an average of 179.5 clients per staff member and a 22.5% increase from the previous year.

According to the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, “a single full-time staff member without major admin responsibilities can effectively work with about 100 or so clients per year.”

Counseling Services’ clinicians, one of whom has administrative responsibilities as the director, were seeing nearly double the number of clients that they can work with effectively in 2018.

Anxiety, depression and family issues are the top three reasons that students seek out counseling services at YSU, according to data collected by Student Counseling Services. Due to the increase in clients, there is also an increase in wait time for an appointment — an average of just over 11 days, according to the same data. This can be a problem when 13% of those 359 clients report serious issues, such as a previous suicide attempt. 

Currently, Wick Primary Care staffs a licensed psychiatrist eight hours a week. This psychiatrist can evaluate and prescribe medications for mental health issues. However, Wick Primary Care does not currently offer any type of psychotherapy. If you are experiencing mental health issues that may require medication, Jaronski recommends setting up an evaluation with a general practitioner at Mercy Health to determine if a psychiatrist is necessary for you.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call the Student Counseling Services’ crisis line at 330-941-3737 and press one, or call 330-747-2696 for the Mahoning and Trumbull counties suicide hotline.