Demand for mental health resources on campus highlights inadequate resources

It was about a year ago when I first wrote about the conditions of our counseling center, detailing the long waits, the lack of services, and the stigma attached to these services. It was apparent that the lack of mental health services was negatively impacting the ability of students to receive quality care.  Our administration was only contributing to this problem with their negative attitudes towards mental health, and I wrote to call upon change–to change the state of our services, to change the way we treat mental health. It didn’t take me long to realize that the “change” that I called for required a much more fundamental reconstruction.

I proposed the campaign “Reclaim Mental Health” this past year to end the stigma attached to the mental health services and push for a new counseling center. Reclaim Mental Health is a campaign that consists of two fundamental elements: educating the student body to reduce the stigma and organizing to build a new counseling center.

This campaign aims to reunite our school in saying that we want change. This year, The Reclaim Mental Health campaign is excited to announce the first ever student initiated mental health conference in UC Irvine’s history, which will be hosted on May 30th. In addition, the campaign will be launching a school-wide petition for the building of a new counseling center.

Our counseling center has officially run out of space. There is no more physical space for the counseling center to expand its services. Even though the counseling center is advocating for and has received funding to increase its staff and services, the center’s physical constraints impede any lasting progress. Furthermore, the original designers of our school built the counseling center and other mental health resource centers away from each other.  This results in a decentralization of services that could cause a loss of information and lack of communication between the counseling staff across these different service departments, something that is completely out of counseling center’s hands.

The reality is that our counseling center is in a crisis due to the growing number of students; in other words, this crisis is completely out of its control.  Based on figures from last year, the ratio of psychologists to students at UC Irvine is approximately 1 to 1700.  This number will continue to increase unless the services expand, which is only possible with the allocation of more physical space. In order for the counseling center to be able to fully expand its services and centralize some of the other mental health services, there needs to be a new counseling center built, a building which will cost approximately $50 million and would provide adequate services for the anteater community. This project is one that is definitely doable if the alumni, donors, and members of the UCI Foundation help support.

The counseling center staff are doing everything they can to lessen the effects of this crisis, even taking three courtyard study lounge rooms to increase services to students. Nonetheless, the counseling center cannot singlehandedly resolve this issue alone. In order to do so, we as students must work hand in hand with the counseling center as well as other resource centers on our campus to implement change. We need to build a new counseling center in order to expand the counseling services.  Half of the battle has been won; the counseling center already has enough money to expand services.  It simply needs the room.

This is only the start.  I ask of you, the students, the faculty, and the staff to join this movement and work together to change and reconstruct our mental health services. This is the first step for a bigger change, a move towards a different future, one with a better state of mental health. It is time that we prioritize mental health at UC Irvine.

Parshan Khosravi is a third-year political sciences major. He can be reached at khosravp@uci.edu