The Associated Students of Madison has approved a $52,670 budget for a mental health office in the Student Activities Center  that will be used to help students with mental health issues.

SAC Governing Board Chair Katie Cary said the money will fund the construction of an office in the same building as University Health Services that will provide mental health services and be a stable place for students to go.

When student organizations applied earlier this school year for an office in the SAC, they did not receive the office they needed because they failed to meet certain requirements, and ASM cannot take a group’s viewpoint into account when deciding who receives funding from them, she said.

The mental health office needs to be located in a large suite because they need room for peer advisers to have private conversations with students, she said. Because there are only nine suites, there is a high demand for them, she said. 

ASM guaranteed the student organizations connected to the mental health office will now have a permanent space that fits their needs at the SAC. The mental health office will no longer have to apply annually for an office – like other student organizations are required to do – due to the importance of the services, she said.

Along with providing peer-to-peer advising, the mental health office will also refer students to other resources and have access to professionals in UHS if a student comes to them with problems beyond their scope.

Cary said ASM will still have to decide how University of Wisconsin’s student organizations that deal with mental health, the Mental Health Coalition and Yes+ Bucky, will share the office.

Approximately 50 percent of UW students go to UHS for mental health services, Cary said, and the mental health office will help meet those students’ needs. She said UHS has difficulty meeting students’ needs because they are understaffed.

She said the mental health office will fill the gap left by UHS and provide a space where students can get advice on a variety of mental health issues on campus from their peers.

“We’re hoping to get rid of the stigma for people who want to get help,” Cary said. “Everyone experiences some sort of stress in college and no one should be ashamed to seek out help in any of those situations.”

An ASM statement said the space will be constructed so that students seeking mental health services have privacy. This includes having blinds for the windows and solid walls, which deviates from the other offices in the SAC, which have clear walls, the statement said.

ASM Chair Andrew Bulovsky said he hopes the new space will allow for the desensitization of mental health on campus.

Students have had to wait up to six weeks to receive mental health services from UHS, which Bulovsky said is unacceptable.

The health office should begin construction over the summer and should be ready to serve students by the fall, he said.

“It’s readily accessible and will better serve students with regards to mental health,” Bulovsky said.