The Princeton Review rated the University of Wisconsin first for the Best Health Services among all other colleges and universities around the country. Overall, this ranking seems reasonable given the extent of UW’s physical health services. But the opposite is true of the mental health services, especially when it comes to accessibility.
As a student who deals with multiple mental health diagnoses, including anxiety and depression disorders, I’ve experienced difficulty accessing effective services and I’ve heard similar stories from other students who have sought treatment through University Health Services.
There is a large portion of the undergraduate student population affected by the lack of accessibility in mental health services at UW. The university conducted a study about mental health at UW in 2016, which found 21 percent of students screened positively for depression overall. That year, there were 32,196 enrolled undergraduate students, which means there were around 6,750 students struggling with depression.
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UHS attempts to tackle growing mental health concerns by providing different services such as individual and group therapy sessions. But these programs are strictly limited in the number of participants, hindering access for many students.
Additionally, these methods of treatment are not solely effective for everyone. In many cases, therapy is best when accompanied with psychiatry. Psychiatry is in growing demand among students with mental health disorders, but the limited number of psychiatrists is problematic for students at UW seeking treatment. The difficulty to schedule an appointment can lead to a delay in treatment, leaving students to navigate debilitating emotions on their own.
Students recognize the growing need for accessible and holistic treatment, while UHS fails to address these issues. Recognizing this need, the Associated Students of Madison formed a mental health subcommittee as of Feb. 11, after the Student Services Finance Committee voted unanimously against the proposed budget by UHS, criticizing the budget for falling short of fulfilling the mental health needs of students.
“Mental health is one of the most prevalent issues facing students at UW–Madison and at universities across the country,” ASM’s press release said. “It is the university’s responsibility to provide adequate health services, and the Associated Students of Madison’s mission to advocate on behalf of the students we represent.”
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The formation of a subcommittee is a step in the right direction, but UHS has a long way to go in regards to providing easily accessible mental health services to all students.
Taylor Hurst ([email protected]) is a sophomore studying social welfare, community and nonprofit leadership, and education and educational services.