Demand leads Boynton to invest in new mental health counselor spots

Mental Health Clinic visits have increased 2.7 percent over the last year.

Sally Hunter

Years of increased demand have led Boynton Health Service to up the number of available therapists on staff at its Mental Health Clinic.
Boynton released a statement in February informing students that the wait for an initial therapy appointment was a âÄúmonth or more.âÄù  There were 35 students on the waitlist at the beginning of the semester, according to Dave Golden, BoyntonâÄôs director of public health and communication.
On April 5, the Boynton website announced the wait was down to two weeks because of new staff.
Boynton increased staff member Michelle KrypelâÄôs hours from one day a week to full time to resolve the high demand issue. Boynton also hired a new psychiatrist to work one day a week.
The waitlist has been cleared since the beginning of March, Golden said.
While BoyntonâÄôs College Student Health Survey has reported a steady number of students diagnosed with depression on campus, the Mental Health Clinic has seen a significant increase in demand to see therapists.
In 2010, 16.6 percent of University of Minnesota students reported they had been diagnosed with depression during their lifetime, similar to the 16.9 percent rate in 2007, according to the survey.
âÄúOur demand is up, our patient visits are up, but diagnosis [of depression] on campus is down,âÄù Golden said.
The cost of care and lack of access could be making it harder for students to find mental health services outside the University, Golden said. Another cause of the demand could be higher enrollment at the University.
âÄúTuition is a big burden,âÄù anthropology sophomore Melissa Ruggles said. Her economic situation has increased her stress since she is paying for tuition on her own this year and has to take out private loans to pay for studying abroad in Morocco next year, she said.
The Mental Health Clinic saw 2,744 patients visit 13,000 times last academic year, director Gary Christenson said.
From September to March this year, 2,227 patients have visited 7,651 times there, a 2.6 percent increase compared to last year at this time, Christensen said.
âÄúThe demand has been going up every single year,âÄù he said, pointing to economic issues as a potential cause this year.
The high demand could also be a reflection of the health clinicâÄôs effort to create awareness of the available help, Christenson said.