Emory Report
September 14, 2009
Volume 62, Number 3



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September 14, 2009
Healthy Campus
Counseling services give and get support

By Margie Fishman

When Mark McLeod, director of the Student Counseling Center, saw his freshman son’s Emory tuition bill this year, he was pleased to see a mental health and counseling fee separate from the other charges.

The fee, rolled out last fall, demonstrates Emory’s commitment to take care of students’ mental well-being, along with their physical health, says McLeod. It represents the combined hard work of students, faculty, staff and administrators.

“I don’t know of any other university that designates a mental health and counseling fee,” he says. “It’s a statement by our community that this is important to talk about.”

Emory enacted the $50 per semester fee on the recommendation of the University’s Mental Health Task Force, appointed by President Jim Wagner to prioritize the mental health and wellness needs deemed most critical to the community. McLeod co-chaired the committee with Paula Gomes, director of the Faculty Staff Assistance Program.

The fee, along with bridge money from the president’s office, has helped the Student Counseling Center reduce stigma and increase access to mental health resources, along with hiring more staff to keep pace with demand. This summer, the Counseling Center moved to a larger space at 1462 Clifton Rd.

With the fee, McLeod has hired three additional psychologists, one social worker, and one psychiatrist bringing the center’s total to 15 staff members. In 2008, the center saw a 20 percent increase in requests for appointments compared to the previous year.

The Counseling Center is part of Student Health and Counseling Services, with a shared mission of empowering students to take responsibility for their health.

“Unless students are healthy in mind, body and spirit, they will not achieve their full academic potential,” says Student Health and Counseling Services Executive Director Michael Huey.

The Counseling Center can address serious problems, such as major depression, but counselors can also offer an objective eye for students going through difficult breakups, falling behind in coursework or stressed about graduation, says Jane Yang, outreach coordinator and one of the new hires supported by the fee. Racial and ethnic minorities, in particular, often tend to view professional therapy as an option only used once other resources, such as family, friends and spiritual or community leaders, have not been successful,” adds Yang.

“The earlier you come in, the better off you’ll be,” says the licensed psychologist. “When you have the energy to actually work on what’s going wrong, you’ll progress more quickly.”

Yang’s mission is to promote the center’s services — including individual counseling, group therapy and relaxation training in biofeedback — to student organizations and academic departments. Recent events, such as the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting rampage by a student, highlight the importance of early intervention.

Faculty and staff are integral to connecting students with the help they need, says McLeod. The center publishes a resource guide to help faculty recognize signs of emotional trouble in their students, such as lack of sleep, poor grooming and changes in classroom performance.

“All employees have to do is call us and get in touch with this great support system,” notes McLeod.

For more information about the student counseling center, call 404-727-7450.