Students at Brigham Young University are calling on the administration to make changes to its mental health program after a young woman committed suicide this week inside the school’s counseling center — which has been “understaffed” and “overbooked” for months, they say.
“No one can really get the help they need,” explained Brigham Pitts, a freshman who spoke to The Salt Lake Tribune.
“I think that there’s definitely a problem here,” added Jacob Payne, another freshman. “I think the problem is BYU doesn’t allocate enough resources.”
One student, who chose to remain anonymous, posted a letter on the door of the Counseling and Psychological Services center on Tuesday morning — detailing their longstanding struggles with the program.
“I have a therapist on campus, and he is wonderful and well qualified,” they said. “But I only see him once a month. Because he has too many clients to see in one week. We are made into a number to be shuffled through the counseling center so that the university can say they’re helping. But for those of us that are in desperate need of care, we are lost in the masses of students who struggle.”
Administration officials got a tragic wake-up call on Monday when an unidentified female student jumped from the fourth floor of an atrium inside the counseling center and later died from her injuries. BYU officials confirmed that the incident was a suicide attempt. The woman was 19-years-old.
“It was probably one of the hardest days I’ve had this year,” said Jayne, a sophomore who goes to the center and only gave her first name.
“I did feel a lot of flashbacks from sitting there myself,” Payne added. “And a lot of pain.”
Individuals have reported experiencing waits for weeks at the center, sometimes months.
“They just need more counselors,” Jayne said.
Pitts and Payne both noted how their depressions “got worse” during the time they had to wait for an appointment.
“[I felt] really down,” Payne said, recalling how he was forced to wait eight weeks.
“During that time, things kept getting worse and worse.”
It’s unclear if the woman who took her own life Monday was a regular at the counseling center. There were dozens of students reportedly waiting that day to be seen.
“Like any university, we have a wait time,” said BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins. “That’s a challenge that we face.”
According to the Tribune, there is currently one therapist for every 1,000 students at BYU.
The school has only hired two full-time therapists over the past four years — raising the number from 27 to 29, it said Wednesday.
“The university is pursuing a proposal to add more therapists,” wrote Counseling and Psychological Services director Steve Smith in a statement.
In the meantime, counselors have started taking crisis appointments and walk-in consultations at a separate student center, in addition to the counseling building. They’ve spoken to more than 100 students over the past two days.
“Such events try our hearts and stretch our souls,” said BYU president Kevin Worthen during a campus devotional on Tuesday. “They should also cause us to be more aware of, and more caring for, the well-being of every individual in our community.”