Stress, anxiety, and depression are all familiar concepts to today’s university students. Although numerous incidents suggest that more and more students are suffering from these issues, we have not been able to give a concrete resolution and have let the situation go worse. Ewha Voice took a deeper look into the status quo of university mental health care inside Ewha and nationwide.
“I am frustrated by the disparity between my ideals and reality. (76.5 percent)” “I am worried about the discriminations I will face in the job market. (76.1 percent)” “I became skeptical about my values in life (57.3 percent)”
According to “Stress Factors of Ewha Students and School Communication Satisfaction Survey (Ewha Media Center)” that was carried out from Feb. 23 to March 12, 503 Ewha undergraduates replied that they are struggling from various issues regarding relationships, grades, employment and much more.
These young adults have been studying, working, and participating in outer activities besides schoolwork “for future success.” However, as people strive for their goals, they may have been overlooking one’s own mental health.
One of the most recent incidents that raised alarm on students’ mental health was the serial suicide that happened in KAIST, 2011. Their motives were mainly depression from pressure of academic results they have to turn in to the school. Numerous coverages criticized the school for encouraging unhealthy competition, and the school announced that it would strengthen its policies on students’ psychological care. A total of 11 people had committed suicide after 6 years from the incident, and media’s attention faded away.
What could have we been overlooking? There may be numerous and various answers to it, however the conclusion came as one word. To solve depression, “wellness” should have been the main entail of living. Although it is a well-known and easy concept for people, it is quite difficult if one had to define it. According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of wellness is “the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.” It seems like an easy thing to do, but, if we concentrate more on our acquaintances and who have concerns, we could get to the conclusion that attaining wellness is actually harder than we think.
Surveys have told us that students are suffering from stress and depression, but is there enough support for students’ psychological needs? Ewha Voice took a deeper look into the status quo of university mental health care inside Ewha and nationwide.
Are people in Ewha happy?
The Ewha Student Counseling Center is located in the Student Union Building, where numerous students gather to do their club activities. Ewha Student Counseling Center, the first counseling center to be established among Korean universities in 1962, was created under the high need of student counseling.
The center provides various counseling programs: individual, group and emergency counseling services, psychological assessment. These counseling programs and Ewha Psycho-education (E.P.) are the main services provided by Ewha Counseling Center. Additionally, the center opens workshops called “mind healing school” when it sees a trend regarding students’ mental health such as misogyny and the sophomore slump. Other special programs are also made to meet the needs of students in Ewha. Until next February, “special counseling” is available for students who seek trauma-related counseling resulting from the series of demonstrations that happened two years ago.
A steady number of students who want to get counseling or help has been visiting Ewha Student Counseling Center. About 30,000 sessions are taken care of every year, and the number of people visiting the center are on a continuous rise.
“We are taking care of more than 10 episodes in one day,” said Oh Hea-young, the director of Student Counseling Center. “All 19 rooms are fully occupied all the time.”
Although numerous Ewha students use the counseling service, there are still problems regarding waiting time. If one registers for individual counseling, he or she has to wait for three months. All 10 counselors are working in the field almost every day, full time to take care of these high needs, only two of them are permeant conselors. After 2019, the number of counselors will be cut down to eight.
“Even though it seems like a small number for the 20,000 students in Ewha, we are in better conditions compared to other universities,” Oh said. “If we could hire as much counselors as we need, about 30 would be enough.”
Director Oh stated that high need of counseling is not a bad sign for Ewha. It can be interpreted as high self-help request ability, which is a good step towards solving one’s psychological issues.
“High self-help request ability means that students recognize their problems and have a strong urge to solve and analyze them,”Oh said. “This is a very healthy sign. Rather than suffering alone, they try to resolve it by talking to someone else, or seeking advice from professionals.”
However, Oh showed regret towards the school’s low attention on the center. As there are many issues and problems that the school has to solve, the counseling center’s issues are pushed back on the priority list. There are high needs, but unless actual accident happens, no changes are made.
“Increasing budgets and manpower is a very complicated matter for the school and we agree that we have a better environment than other Korean universities,” Oh said. “However, compared to other universities in other countries, it’s completely another story.”
According to Oh, providing counseling is a requisite for universities. People coming into the university are not perfect human beings, and there have always been a need for better counseling services. It is surprising that universities have just started to work on these issues when it has been a prevalent problem in them for decades.
“Prevention and crisis management should be the main two axes for counseling,” Oh commented. “Also, students and the school should get involved more on such matters.”