Trigger warning: Discussion of mental health and resources
In light of the COVID-19 and mental health pandemics, colleges have had to prioritize student mental health in ways they haven’t previously. However, with only six staff members listed on their website, it is unclear if Meredith College’s Counseling Center and Disability Services (CC&DS) can meet the demand for mental health services. Meredith’s undergraduate and graduate student population totals to approximately 2,100, meaning each counselor is theoretically responsible for 350 students. In a previously published Meredith Herald article, Assistant Director for Disability Services Carolyn Koning stated that there are “too many projects and not enough money.” To investigate further, The Herald spoke with Alston Tyndall, ‘22, who has utilized CC&DS, about their experiences and with representatives from CC&DS to discuss their funding and resources.
Tyndall said their “experience with the Meredith Counseling Center and Disability Services have been positive overall.” However, they said that it can be unclear how to contact CC&DS. Tyndall said she has been asked by many students how to connect with CC&DS, but that originally she “was unsure of how to contact [CC&DS].”
“I don't think this information is explicitly shared with students,” Tyndall said. “If it were, I definitely feel that more students would take advantage of these services on campus.”
When asked about budgeting for CC&DS, Director of the Counseling Center Beth Meier stated, “CC&DS share the same general supply account, payroll accounts and student worker account. Outside of our payroll accounts, the largest account in the department is the Interpreter and Disability Assistance Account.” The Interpreter and Disability Assistance Account is “dedicated to student-related disability expenditures” and is separate from the CC&DS account.
“The College provided funds that were received through the federal government’s COVID-19 relief fund to support the hiring of a temporary counselor for the fall 2021 semester,” Meier added. “Meredith funds were used to continue the temporary counselor hours through the spring semester.”
Koning contributed by saying that “all College departments were encouraged to be conservative with spending to meet the fiscal demands during the pandemic.” Additionally, funds were directed to “support campus accessibility projects” in different departments on campus.
Due to the donations from the Meredith Parents and Families Council, Meredith was able to purchase an electronic scheduling system for college-wide use. Meier hopes that “starting in fall 2022, students will be able to schedule counseling and disability appointments through an online portal.”
In regard to mental health advocacy on campus, Meier stated that members of the Meredith community can contribute by “referring students to the Counseling Center, challenging stigma, donating to the Counseling Center and following us on Instagram [@meredith_ccds] and social media in general.”
“Everyone can support our community members with disabilities by respecting their intelligence, accommodations, identity and privacy,” Koning said. She added that it is important to “remember that disability is an integral component of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”
Tyndall told The Herald that they feel a “huge stigma surrounding mental, physical and emotional health on campus.” They believe “we should be more realistic and honest about what we need as students, even when that means taking a step back, and Meredith College should do a better job of honoring students' boundaries without penalty.”
Meier added that CC&DS is always searching for ways to improve, but also learn what they are doing well.
Koning shared that she is excited about “the Student Accessibility Initiative (SAI), [which] is a specific outcome of the Belonging Survey and Report facilitated by the School of Arts and Humanities [and] will likely become a subcommittee of the Angels for Disability Advocacy (ADA) club.” She is also excited about Disability Services “hosting all-day drop-in opportunities every other week” in addition to their current drop-in hour on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m.
Meier added that CC&DS is “excited [to announce the addition of] Assistant Director Brittany Fierro and Personal Counselor Samara Brown” to the staff. She stated that “both plan to offer mental health wellness programs closer to finals.”
Meredith Counseling Center and Disability Services is located on the second floor of Carroll Hall. CC&DS can be reached by dialing 919-760-8427, emailing email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. For life-threatening mental health emergencies, please dial 911 and ask for a Crisis Intervention Team officer or dial 800-273-8255 for the suicide hotline.
By Elinor Shelp-Peck, Co-Editor in Chief, and Cady Stanley, Copy Editor