By: Megan Nowezki (Loyola Sophomore)
Mental Health is a growing issue among college students. Recent statistics have shown that 60% meet the criteria for at least 1 mental health problem. With academic stress, social pressures, and lasting effects of COVID, it is no surprise that these factors have taken a toll on the well-being of students across the U.S.
Loyola University Chicago is one of the many universities that have recognized their students’ need for mental health resources. Although Loyola is putting efforts towards offering a wide variety of individual and more conventional options, there are still many students who are unaware of these resources or don’t know how to access them.
David deBoer, Director of Counseling at Loyola University Chicago, leads a team of over 20 people who are dedicated to improving the well-being of students. As mental health worsens, this team continues to work towards solving the disconnect between those who are struggling and the resources at Loyola.
Before obtaining his position as director in 2008, he graduated from the University of Chicago with a doctorate in Human Development and Psychology. He then proceeded to work at the CORE center on an inpatient unit with young people, which he found to be very interesting and rewarding.
I sat down to talk with him about the resources offered at Loyola and what improvements he hopes to make.
*Interview has been edited for length and clarity
RogersEdge Reporter: What mental health resources are offered at Loyola?
deBoer: Here we offer assessment, brief individual therapy, various group therapies, and crisis intervention for folks who are more acutely distressed in the moment. We offer an after hours counseling line to support students [This service is available by calling (773)-508-2530, Option 3 after hours, which includes weekends and holidays] and we offer what we call care management and referral for folks who need to be connected to longer term or more intensive care in the community. Oh, and I didn’t mention Ashlar the therapy dog. He does outreach and has office hours Tuesday through Friday. He’s certainly enormously popular. He’s got over 5000 followers on Instagram.
RER: How do you communicate all these different resources to the students on campus?
deBoer: We have a Wellness Center newsletter and a website. We have pretty active social media, Twitter and Instagram I’d say are two biggest social media outlets. Also some paper flyering and presentations to various departments. We do an annual wellness fair on the first Wednesday of October where we offer free flu shots and have vendors both internal to Loyola as well as from the community that offer things like chair massages, spinal checks, that sort of thing.
RER: What resources do you offer for commuters?
deBoer: The same services are offered for commuters as are offered for on campus students. We don’t have a distinct group for commuters, but the Student Life Department offers programming to support commuter students.
RER: I heard from a student athlete that Norville [Athletic practice facility] has its own counselors. How is this setup?
deBoer: Several years ago, we embedded one of our Wellness Center employees in Norville funded by an NCAA grant. But then the university was able to, in addition to that part time position, create a full time position, a staff counselor for diversity and inclusion, and one for social justice initiatives. We’re also fulfilling a position at the Sullivan center to support students and staff in that building on site. That’s becoming a bit of a model across campuses, to have both a main center but also have some counselors with the idea of meeting students where they’re at. Athletics is one of those positions.
RER: How has the overall mental health of students changed during your time here?
deBoer: Well, I would say our experience at Loyola is similar to what we’re seeing in the data nationally. 20 years ago, the National College Health Assessment Survey would have shown that if you survey a random sample of college students and ask “which mental health disorders have you been diagnosed with in the past 12 years or what symptoms are you struggling with the most?,” it used to be that depression was always number one and anxiety was second after that. Now, 20 years later, it’s flipped. People who theorize it, say the increase in social media leads to both FOMO and social comparison, especially for teenage girls. The whole dynamic with social media and phones pulling people away from interpersonal connections I think has had some really deleterious impact on development of social skills and connecting ability which has effects on anxiety and self esteem.
RER: What improvements do you hope to make during your time as director?
deBoer: I’m really proud of the improvements I’ve made. Like I said, we’re over 20 humans now and we were four when I started. We didn’t have a care manager or a psychiatry service. We had next to no groups happening and now we have a real robust group offering. We also built centers at the Water Tower campus, the health science building, and in Rome. So I’m just proud of the rebuilding we’ve been able to do these last 20 years and hope to do even more. I would love to have a new center at a different place on campus. Also an area we could grow is having more resources to develop toward a more robust student therapists training program. I think and hope to do that as time goes on.
For more information on Loyola’s mental health resources or to set up an appointment, go to: https://www.luc.edu/wellness/mentalhealth/