Counseling Center needs more power

As an MSU professor who has encountered a few students who appear to be mentally ill, I was drawn with interest to The State News article, “Fragile: As mental health enters national debate, MSU reaches out to community.”

I took comfort in learning that the “Counseling Center routinely offers training and consultation to faculty and staff regarding ways to identify and refer students in need of services.” But based on my experience, the Center’s training and consultation services are difficult to come by. I believe this likely is due to budget and caseload constraints.

But more importantly, the article states that MSU staff, from professors to resident assistants, are making sure students “get the help they need.” Please note that MSU employees do not have the ability to ensure that students get any help. Generally, a student only gets help if the student voluntarily seeks help or if the student directly threatens to do physical harm.

For example, if I encounter a student in my class who appears to have serious difficulties dealing with aggression, there is nothing I can do to ensure that student gets help unless that student makes a direct threat of physical harm. So, please understand that even though “MSU is involved in a campus-wide effort to identify students who are in need of mental health services,” it does not ensure that help will be received.

I recognize the complexity of this issue but sincerely hope the MSU Counseling Center gets more power to help improve the mental health of our community.

Kathy Petroni, professor of accounting

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