A Letter to the Wellness Center

Patty Thistle '22, Guest Writer

As this semester has progressed, I have become increasingly disturbed by the lack of psychiatric services that are available to students through the wellness center. I recognize the pandemic has led to a nation-wide staff shortage. I also recognize that with each new semester comes an influx of stressors, and therefore increased need for student therapy. Additionally, students are adjusting to being back on campus for the first time in a year and a half- or for the first time ever, in the case of the underclassmen. Of course, these factors are going to lead to a lot of students needing help at one time. However, it is now November, and to my knowledge the issue has not improved.  

A friend of mine decided they wanted to talk to someone because they were struggling with their mental health. This individual is a senior, and like most students, it was not their first time utilizing the wellness center resources. After being forced to go through the lengthy intake process for the umpteenth time, they were told that individual therapy services were overloaded and that they would be put on a wait list. Almost a month has passed since this initial appointment, and my friend is still waiting for individual therapy services.  

Another friend of mine decided they wanted to talk to the nutritionist on campus. After building up the courage to take this step, they were told the nutritionist was no longer employed. This was at the beginning of the semester and at this time the position is still vacant.  

It cannot be overstated how much courage it takes for most people to admit that they need help. Booking an appointment, going into open hours, and sitting in front of a therapist and admitting that you are having a hard time is one of the most vulnerable positions individuals can be in. Being essentially turned away is incredibly discouraging. I have spoken with multiple students who feel that the wellness center staff minimized their feelings, experiences, and struggles. It terrifies me that someone on this campus who might be in desperate need of help might just be simply turned away. I realize that emergency services are offered. However, someone who is experiencing a mental health emergency is not always able to admit that their situation is dire. Or, if they know that the wellness center has a huge wait list, they might not even go in. 

Although some students on this campus might be privileged enough to be able to afford private therapy, many are not. It is simply unacceptable that we are over halfway through the semester and these issues have not been resolved. 

Mental health services are not dispensable. The COVID-19 pandemic shed light onto the intensity of young adult’s experiences and struggles with mental illness. No one should ever be promised availability of free services only to be turned away. It is offensive to our intelligence as a student body to claim that we don’t have enough funds to hire more psychiatric staff. With rapidly increasing annual tuition, a massive, financially supportive alumni network, and sports teams that receive unbelievably high levels of funding, it’s irrational to allege that we simply don’t have enough money for these services.  

I call on Dickinson College to do better. Our school needs a nutritionist. We need individual therapy that students can receive without a month long wait. Most importantly, we need a staff that is encouraging, supportive, and warm.