Thirty to forty years ago mental health and wellbeing was a taboo topic, something that got swept under the rug — dismissed because the general public knew little to nothing about these disorders and how to treat them, so people with mental illness suffered in silence.
Karol White, the Counseling Services manager at Kirkwood Community College, has seen the stigma around mental health and its treatment dissolve over the years.
“Between medications and therapy treatments and getting rid of the stigma around mental health a lot more people have access to ongoing higher education and they have medications that allow them to be stable so that they can pursue higher degrees,” White said.
According to White, in recent years this has led to an increase in demand for counseling services worldwide, and on college campuses.
“When you look in the past 10 years in data there has been an increase in demand for mental health counseling on college campuses,” White said. “It’s two fold. We have more people who are identifying mental health needs, like anxiety and depression, early in life. So that means there are more students coming onto campus with those needs and the other side of that 40 years ago folks with a mental health diagnosis weren’t going to have access to college, it just wasn’t going to happen.”
Even within the past two years as the world braves a pandemic they have seen the need for their services increase.
“Obviously in the last two years the world has been shifting, so we’ve seen this increase in demand and need for mental health services here on campus and that’s being seen nationwide,” White said.
“The pandemic and having to stay at home made this little pressure cooker, that people who had needs before struggled before struggled to get the support they needed and then there are people who were getting by without services but there’s something that really brought stuff to light. Now that they are being brought back to campus they are realizing that they do need help,” she added.
Within the past 40 years medications and therapy treatments have combined to help people with mental illness become stable, according to White, leading to a need to support students with those needs.
“So we need to support them when they’re here and that’s one of the things we’ve seen as the need for our services has increased over the past 10 years,” White said.
Counseling Services are offered through the Dean of Students office currently located on the second floor of Cedar Hall. The department has six full time counselors who have office hours between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are able to counsel up to six students a day with extra time being allowed for paperwork and outreach roles.
“We are a little bit different than the high school counselors that you’re used to,” White said. “We offer support for anyone who has a mental health diagnosis. Also have support for anyone who has something going on. Whether people are struggling with a personal issue, a family issue, or a school issue.”
The counseling services are provided to students for free through the college. To sign up stop by the Dean of Students office or give them a call at 319-398-4516.
“All kinds of things bring students to us, so we just try to provide support for students wherever they are at,” White said.