Counseling: nothing to be ashamed of

Justin Law

Did you know USI has its own counseling center? Did you know it offers free sessions to USI students? Now ask yourself; would you ever go, if you thought it could help you?

Chances are, you might not.

The USI counseling center offers many services to students, including help with anything from homesickness and stress, to depression and substance abuse. While they do an admirable job, they have a lot going against them. With the school growing and changing, the counseling center is often left out of major budgetary decisions and remains understaffed.

However, according counseling center director B. Thomas Longwell, the counseling center gets plenty of support from the administration, and its biggest problem is something completely different.

“I think we are a priority to the administration, “Longwell said. “They have a tough job. I tell them about our needs, and they need to balance them with everyone else’s. They are very supportive and understanding.”

According to Longwell, the real problem is getting students to come in and to break down the idea that therapy or counseling is not something to be ashamed of.

For a very long time, the mental health profession has had something of a stigma attached to it. Mental illness, or even just needing someone to talk things through with, was considered a mental weakness, and something to be embarrassed about.  Nowadays, things have changed quite a bit, as more people learn about mental illness and problems are being discussed in the open now, instead of behind closed doors and bolted windows. However, there is still a worry that somehow a therapist will see something in you that you don’t want seen, or that something “wrong” or “weak” about you, none of which is true.

The fact is, people sometimes just need help dealing with stuff. Many, many tragedies could easily prevented by someone with problems having someone there to help them work it out. Even if its not a huge, possibly life changing problem like considering suicidal behavior or having a drug addiction, many people’s lives would be better if they just had a nice, caring person to listen to them who they knew would not judge them, or tell other people what was said.

There won’t be a stigma anymore if people are actually willing to talk about it!

The biggest problem in the counseling center is the difficulty in getting people inside and break through all the baggage associated with therapy.

Maybe it’s a little scary, but give it a chance. The worst that could actually happen is it’s not your thing, and you leave. There won’t be a mob outside waiting for you, armed with tomatoes and other things to throw.

It’s the 21st century, and I would like to think we have learned a bit more. Things have gotten a lot better, but there is definitely room for improvement. And with USI`s center starting to move forward into more outreach, group therapy sessions and increased meetings, the counseling center wants to help things improve.  I think Longwell said it best when he said “I view our services as you want to talk to a kind, caring person who can give you suggestions so you can figure things out for yourself.”