Slice of nice: Oct. 12, 2011

Story by Taylor Kuether

What they’re cooking up:

Western Illinois University, in Macomb, Ill., offers students their curriculum with a side of mental health. Every student at Western is paired not only with an academic advisor to help them plan coursework and class schedules, but a personal advisor as well. The personal advisers aid the students in acclimating to college life as well as managing the new pressures of mental health that many college students face. Students are required to meet with their personal advisor just as they would their academic advisor.

Because the average age for the onset of mental health issues is 18-24 (college-aged), I think it’s beneficial for Western- and schools across the country- to get a head-start on identifying and treating students at risk of falling into depression or another disorder.

And, because personal advisers are non-optional, those at-risk students won’t fall through the cracks. Many students suffering from a mental health issue are too afraid or shy to seek the help they need, and their struggles go unnoticed and uncared for. This way, students have someone to talk to from the moment they first start experiencing a possible illness or disorder.

Even for students who don’t experience depression or other symptoms, it must be nice just to have a completely confidential outlet to talk to.

How it can be homemade:

Eau Claire has an excellent Counseling Services program, but we shouldn’t stop there. Individual counselors for every student could help keep students from feeling overwhelmed, alone, or depressed.

It would be costly- and in our current climate of a education budget cut-happy Wisconsin, impossible- to hire enough trained professionals to advise the entire student body. I suggest that interested faculty and staff volunteer to take a short course that could even be offered by our own Counseling Services Center to learn how to listen to students and help them cope. That way, students could meet with these professors and staff in the same way they’d arrange to meet with their academic advisers every semester.

Mental health is an issue that many college students struggle with. This is an easy-to-implement idea that could aid students right from the start of their Eau Claire experience and help them immeasurably.