USC needs a more genuine mental health process

A drawing of a therapist in a chair, talking to a client in a therapist chair. The client is Tommy Trojan.
(Lyndzi Ramos | Daily Trojan)

College is a difficult time; many go through extreme lows, experiencing some of the worst moments of their life. Therefore, USC must have a strong mental health office to assist students.

Currently, there are mental health offices in the Engemann and Eric Cohen student health centers, which offer individual and group counseling. USC also created Trojans Care 4 Trojans, an anonymous system for people to refer students to additional resources if they are concerned about anyone. 

While many students appreciate these resources, USC still has a long way to go in providing genuine, long-term mental healthcare. 

For example, TC4T only meets with patients once, even if the student has serious problems. Sometimes, it feels like the counselors do not even talk to students about their emotions and are simply satisfied with meeting as a formality. These appointments might feel like they aren’t actually for students’ well-being, but rather for liability issues. 

At Engemann and Eric Cohen, students can book a consultation and meet with a counselor four to eight times. However, getting long-term help is much harder. 

In the past, students complained about the lack of long-term counseling, which resulted in USC adding a new psychiatry floor in Engemann in November 2019. Although this has made it easier for students to seek care, it is not sufficient for 46,000 USC students. Students have to be referred to a psychiatrist first, and because psychiatry is mostly based on prescribing pharmaceuticals, not all students meet that criteria.

Engemann does not offer care to the majority of students who need long-term help. These students are usually referred to outside resources. As college students, this can be extremely difficult since going outside campus for mental health treatment means organizing transportation, finances and a new counselor who is covered by their health insurance. 

These ingenuine, short-term resources are not only extremely insulting but also detrimental to student health. There needs to be a push toward long-term mental health initiatives that truly help students, such as studying the root of mental health issues. 

By studying the root issue of student problems, USC can address these issues before more serious concerns arise. For example, if many students are having problems with academic pressure, the school could study why the environment is stressful for students instead of just holding appointments when they are on the brink. Consequently, the University could adjust its curricula and absence policies as preventive measures. Not only could this lead to less severe issues, but it would also promote an atmosphere that actually values students’ well-being. 

If a serious issue arises, USC should actually work to help the student, not just hold a couple of appointments or refer them to outside resources to escape liability. The counselors should ideally focus on what the student wants and adjust their counseling to make the student feel more valued and prioritized. 

Moreover, there still needs to be more counselors who provide long-term care on-campus. When students are vulnerable, they should not have to go through the intimidating process of finding an outside counselor. 

USC must take the initiative to make its students feel safer. Mental health is so fundamental to well-being; finding resources on campus should not be this difficult.