Slippery Rock University (SRU) is making its counseling services a top priority after 655 different students were seen at the heath center last fall for anxiety, making it the leading mental health concern in America in 2018, and 58 of those cases at SRU were related to suicide. In the midst of Suicide Prevention Week, it has been top of mind for Student Health Services and the counselors to make sure students know there are resources if they need them.
“One of our main missions is to help students work through any mental health issues they may have,” Kenneth Messina, the director for the Student Counseling Center said. “We like to see students before it becomes a big problem.”
Messina said the counseling center can help prevent small issues from turning into big issues and can help people before their issues become a crisis.
“At the end of the day, we don’t want it to be a student safety concern,” Messina said. “We have had a history of that on campus recently, and that’s a huge concern for us because we want our students to be safe, healthy, and happy.”
Messina said that there is no shame in getting help and mentioned that the counseling center’s hours are Monday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. and Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.. The counseling center is located in Rhoads Hall, and walk-ins are welcome.
Kristine Benkeser, the director of Health Services, said that there are night-time nurses at the health center that work to supply care for students 24/7.
“It is important for students to use the health center as a resource if they need it,” Benkeser said. “It’s as simple as telling your friend who is struggling to ‘put your shoes on, we are going to the health center.’”
Aside from on-campus counseling and the Student Health Center, the counseling center is now partnering with the Christian Counselors Collaborative at Gateway Church. This counseling center, located on 307 Center Street, is open to students and community members. Chris White, the Pastor at Gateway Church, said the church was thankful to find good counselors to work there.
“We wanted to provide an opportunity for students that wasn’t based solely for Christians,” White said. “We want anybody to be able to access it, and we are pretty grateful for our place here in town.”
One of the licensed counselors at Gateway Church, Carol Frey, said she understands the stressors that come with being a college student.
“The counseling center on campus does a great job, so we want to be a support to them,” Frey said. “Sometimes there are issues where someone might need some off-campus additional support, and also there are times where students feel more comfortable just leaving campus.”
The counseling sessions at Gateway Church work on a cost structure, and there is also a scholarship fund available, according to White.
“The cost structure works with a student’s ability to pay,” White said.
Stephen Friebe, a licensed counselor at Gateway Church, said that students should not be scared away by the cost because that is dealt with after the session. He also said, even though this is a Christian collaborative, none of the counselors will “force” their religious views on their clients.
“We are Christians, and that does inform the way that we operate, but if we never talk about spirituality, that’s okay because it is your hour,” Friebe said.
Friebe also mentioned that it’s important for anyone to seek counseling, especially while in college and with the rising epidemic and college stressors.
“How often do you get to just sit and talk to someone for an hour and have them fully listen to your problems?” Friebe asked. “I have had counseling during some of the lowest and also the best times in my life.”
The number for the counselors at Gateway Church is (855) 222-2575, and they are open year-round for students to seek help during winter and summer breaks as well.