Lisa Falta / The Daily Gamecock

Column: Separating counseling office alienates mental healthcare

Editor's note: Check out our news coverage of the counseling center's move to the new student health building.

USC's health center has moved to its highly-anticipated new building this year. I was sick a few times last year and couldn't wait for the health center to move into a more welcoming building. Now that I have visited the new location, I can say it is a vast improvement. No longer do I feel like I am entering a mad doctor's lab when I go to get my blood drawn. However, there is still something wrong with the new health center: It doesn't house mental health counseling.

College is a stressful time for many students, both new and old. Lucky for us, USC offers 10 free counseling sessions a year for students. However, I can't help but feel that students in need of mental health counseling are made to feel that their issues aren't truly medical. Counseling is located in the same awkward spot it was last year, the Close-Hipp Building. For those of you who are unaware of what this building is, it is an academic building that for no apparent reason hosts counseling on the fifth floor. It is located in a corner of campus right next to Capstone. Basically, the location for mental health counseling feels like an afterthought.

The last thing a student struggling with mental health issues needs is to feel that their issues aren't as valid as other medical issues. By not including counseling in the new health building, USC's health center is indirectly saying just that. Why are we making students already in distress find their way to the fifth floor of a random academic building and receive counseling in a less than welcoming atmosphere? With all the recent focus on mental wellbeing that has been going on at USC, I think it's time we move our counseling services to be housed with all other medical services. That is where they belong.

Maybe it's an issue of space, politics or money — who knows with a university our size. All I know is that student wellbeing should be a top priority here, and the way we currently appear to isolate our counseling patients is not acceptable. Struggling students need to be reassured that their problems are legitimate and can be helped by professionals, a message that is not coming across by housing them in a corner of an academic building set up as several private offices. Their health problems don't appear to be viewed with the same professionalism simply because of the location and moving this service to our welcoming, professional building would fix this problem.

Almost everyone is either personally struggling or knows of someone who is struggling with a mental health issue. The reality of these issues is that they can be extremely serious and, in some cases, fatal. Please USC, give students seeking help the respect they deserve and move mental health counseling to the new health building.

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