By Kyla Guilfoil, Editor-in-Chief
Changes in Manhattan College’s upper administration and long-held confusion about what services the college actually offers has sparked calls for change when it comes to mental health support.
Tension rose when students called on the college’s administration last spring in a walkout on the quadrangle, advocating for the improvement of mental health services on campus in the wake of junior Christian Gallante’s death in March.
Brennan O’Donnell, the president of the college at the time, had met with the Student Government Association to discuss possible solutions going forward, to expand and improve mental health access at the college.
Upper administration has shifted significantly since those meetings last spring, with new names filling the roles of both president and provost. Brother Daniel Gardner is currently interim president and William Clyde has replaced Steven Schreiner as provost.
SGA president, Calissa McNeely, told The Quadrangle that the change in administration has impacted the process of implementing new measures to the college’s mental health services.
“The conversations we were having were with people who aren’t here anymore,” McNeely said.
However, seeking better mental health resources is still an important part of SGA’s agenda, McNeely said. The SGA wants to take their time developing a new plan and creating relationships both with new administrators and with groups on campus who hope to be a part of the change.
Kimberly Fairchild, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, stated that she has helped students who have come to her with mental health struggles.
While Fairchild is not a clinician herself, she said students will come to her in part because they are reluctant to see therapy or counseling because there are still many stigmas surrounding psychotherapy and who it is appropriate for.
While students come to her with a myriad of struggles, Fairchild said circumstances where students have feelings of burnout, stress and being generally overwhelmed have increased over the last two years.
Fairchild often works to help guide students to clinical help at the counseling center, but said there are two common issues.
The first is that students are not aware of where the services actually are, or what they include. The second is that the services are stretched thin and students do not have easy access to appointments.
“Too often, students don’t seek help until they are at a critical point of stress and anxiety, and I think this is often when students turn to trusted professors for a kind ear,” Fairchild said. “It isn’t just on-campus, but even in the broader community it can be hard to get help immediately without long wait times.”
McNeely said that she too has noticed that some students do not feel the counseling center offers services that are adequate for their needs, and that it often feels like a one-size-doesn’t-fit-all situation.
Christin Nedumchira, staff psychologist at the center, and Briana Azzarelli, staff counselor at the center, told the Quadrangle the services available at the center.
To seek individual or group therapy, crisis intervention services and referrals for long term treatment, Nedumchira and Azzarelli encourage students to reach out via email or phone call, or by stopping into the office.
The Counseling Center is located on the fifth floor of Miguel Hall and accessible through the northern staircase.
Esmilda Abreu-Hornbostel, Ph.D., associate vice president for student life and dean of students, said the administration has worked to expand wellness opportunities, like yoga, meditation training and other events on campus.
However, there does not seem to be any plans to expand access to clinical support for those seeking therapy.
For now, McNeely said SGA is building the foundation for a better system at the college, one where the burden of seeking and accessing mental health services doesn’t fall on the struggling student.
McNeely said she encourages students to take the extra time for their mental health and say something if they notice they are struggling.
“It’s really difficult to balance social life, balance your classes, make sure you’re getting multiple meals in a day, making sure you’re getting enough sleep, all these different things that you have to balance and that you’re pretty much learning on your own,” McNeely said. “If it gets difficult, take some time to let someone know.”