By Ashley Ng
The students who do go say the wait for an appointment is too long. The students who don’t go are scared about the stigma of needing help.
UAlbany Counseling Service has an answer for both problems: the Let’s Talk program. This isn’t a cure-all, but it is a way for students to just get their foot in the door - literally. Students can walk in without making an appointment to speak with a clinician about issues they are having, or ask general questions about trying out professional counseling.
“We know there are students who have symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts who aren’t seeking help,” said Dr. Joyce Dewitt-Parker, the Clinical Director of the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services. “And it’s about half of the students who have those issues with anxiety as well, who aren’t actually involved in treatment.”
Typically students only come to Let’s Talk for one session. But after the consultation, the counselor can assist the student to set up an appointment at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
“Let’s Talk” originated from Cornell University, with the first program starting in 2004 when it was noted by Cornell staff that students who needed mental help services were not seeking aid at traditional counselling centers.
Certain minorities underutilized the services at higher raters, including international students and students of color; many of both groups were first generation college students as well.
So, the initiative began as something aimed at serving underprivileged groups, while remaining open to everyone else.
Now nearly 100 universities and colleges across the United States provide a “Let’s Talk” service on their campus.
UAlbany adopted this service in Spring of 2014. During that first semester, 40 students used the Let’s Talk service.
In 2017, 87 students utilized this service and last year, 141 students visited.
“The utilization has almost doubled in the past two years and I can tell you because we looked at the numbers,” said Dr. Dewitt-Parker. “So what that suggests is that the utilization this year will be even higher than last year.”
Destiny Yu, a Junior at UAlbany, has visited this service last semester. She went in to discuss her issue with overthinking.
She mentioned how the counselor was very welcoming and kind. “I liked the feeling of it being non-binding,” Yu said. “I did not have to fill out any papers. I didn't even have to tell him my name.”
According to Yu, the counselor actively listened to her and gave her feedback on how her brain seems to be very active and there are ways to help quiet down her thoughts. He advised her that when she starts to notice herself getting lost in her thoughts again, she needed to catch herself, take a step back and reevaluate.
“Let’s Talk” is located on several locations on campus. For the complete schedule, students can go to albany.edu/counseling_center.