Need for increased student mental health services reverberates throughout CSU

Dr. La Tanya Skiffer spends four hours a week in advising sessions with her students at CSU Dominguez Hills. Intermingled with discussions about course work for her criminology courses, Skiffer learns about their lives.

When she spots a need, she points them to resources available on campus.

And increasingly, that includes counseling services.

Anxiety, depression, and work/life balance issues appear most frequently. And on a campus like Dominguez Hills, where students tend to be older than the national average, a majority is female, and 91 percent are students of color, the pressures are compounded.

“Our students experience tremendous anxiety and social pressure right now,” Skiffer said. “You can see it in their faces, you can see it in their self care. You can’t miss it if you’re paying attention.”

But despite the overwhelming need, student access to counseling services on all 23 CSU campuses is hampered because there are too few mental health counselors. That is why it is critical that Gov. Jerry Brown sign Senate Bill 968, authored by Dr. Richard Pan and sponsored by CFA. The bill, which was passed by the Assembly 63-0 today and is awaiting a concurrence vote by the Senate, would increase the number of counselors on CSU campuses. The professional recommended ratio is one counselor per 1,500 students. Currently, the ratio on CSU campuses is far higher, in some cases as much as one counselor per 3,000 students.

The legislation is important for the CSU’s students, and it is essential that faculty help students understand that the counseling is a support service that they shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed to use, Skiffer said.

“It’s incumbent on all of us as educators to help students see the importance of caring for themselves and making sure our students have the right resources available to them,” she said. “Our students can’t learn if they can’t even concentrate and focus because no one is there to help them resolve their issues.”