The Inaccessibility of the Student Health Center

NYU’s failure to advertise resources leaves students to fend for themselves in an environment where it is already difficult to establish a concrete support system.

Helen Wajda, Deputy Opinion Editor

Finding an affordable therapist in the city after I ran out of free appointments at the NYU Student Health Center took most of last semester. After a few weeks of unsuccessful searching, a professional who I regularly work with at the SHC suggested that I meet with the insurance coordinator at the SHC for more help. During our two appointments, the insurance coordinator called my insurance company, came up with a list of therapists who specialized in what I needed, and made sure I was aware of all of my options. As a result, I was able to find a clinician who was willing to work with me at a reduced rate.

If I had not been told to meet with the insurance coordinator, though, I would not have known this was an option; there is no mention of this service’s existence anywhere on the SHC website or advertised on campus, including at the SHC in Manhattan. The lack of transparency about the availability of this service — a resource that was the turning point in me finally getting the help I needed — is an example of NYU failing to provide students with adequate support by not making important resources accessible. 

The Student Health Center has come under fire recently for many reasons, including inflating the number of current employees, subjecting students to long wait times and responding to student demands for better resources by rolling out the Wellness Exchange app, an online therapy service that many students deemed impersonal. It isn’t news that students are largely dissatisfied with the way that mental health is handled at NYU and that they struggle with getting the support they need through the SHC. 

NYU’s failure to inform students about the insurance coordinator suggests that they not only offer insufficient on-campus support, but also that they don’t adequately help students find off-campus support. Though the NYU Wellness website states the counseling offered at the SHC is meant to be short-term, it doesn’t offer specific guidance for how students can go about finding long-term options to suit their needs. 

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The insurance coordinator’s existence suggests that there is a more concrete resource available to help students find outside care, but NYU’s lack of transparency regarding this service means that students might not even know that such a crucial service is available. While it is promising that there are more resources to help students find support, the lack of transparency on NYU’s part could leave students feeling like they are left to fend for themselves when it comes to finding outside help. 

NYU’s position in an urban college setting is also an important factor to consider. In a recent study, The American College Health Association found that approximately 87% of college students reported feeling overwhelmed in the past year and 53% reported feeling hopeless. Moreover, according to The Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health, people who live in cities have an estimated 40% higher risk of depression and 20% higher risk of anxiety than those who live in other areas.

With NYU students being city inhabitants with a higher risk of struggling with mental health, it is crucial that NYU take an active role in helping students find support. If the university is not going to offer long-term counseling options on-campus, then they have a responsibility to help students establish outside help — which includes not only providing resources at the SHC to assist students in finding the support they need, but advertising said resources. If students do not know what resources are available, how can they utilise them? Establishing awareness of the resources is crucial, but it is just the first step in making sure that students can effectively access reliable, long-term care. 

This is not to say that the staff at the SHC have not been helpful. The professionals that I regularly see at the SHC and the insurance coordinator (once I found out about her existence) have been — and continue to be — incredibly supportive. The therapist I met with for 10 appointments last year was also helpful during our time together. But that doesn’t mean NYU can’t do better.

It is great that NYU has someone who helps students understand their options and find affordable therapy in a city where therapy often costs upwards of $200 per session and many therapists do not accept insurance. But it is not enough to simply offer resources — NYU also needs to inform students of their existence so that students can take advantage of them. By failing to make resources accessible, NYU is leaving students to fend for themselves in an urban environment where establishing community and support is already difficult. 

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Jan. 27, 2020 print edition. Email Helen Wajda at [email protected]

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