By Zoe Rader
In the first semester of her freshman year, Kristen Brockett, a junior and co-president of Scholars Promoting and Revitalizing Care, was told not to go to the Counseling Center because the wait was too long. By her second semester, she went again and became an emergency appointment.
“I don’t want that situation to happen to someone else,” Brockett said. “The reality is with more counselors and more support, most students won’t even get to that emergency state like I did.”
SPARC, a student-led, self-care advocacy group, noticed the lack of resources allocated to Mental Health Services and the Counseling Center at the University of Maryland. In response, they began the #30DaysTooLate campaign, an on-campus movement to improve counseling services launched last Wednesday, and has gained traction through signs posted throughout campus, social media campaigns and canvassing efforts.
Last week, SPARC members handed out fliers in front of Hornbake Library and McKeldin Library, urging students to tweet at University President Wallace Loh about the issue. This was the official launch of #30DaysTooLate.
In November, SPARC held various events about mental health, including an open mic night where students shared their personal stories. A common theme students addressed was the difficulty of receiving quick, consistent counseling.
“We had heard students talk about how hard it was to see a counselor and how after they went through the emotional effort of realizing they had a problem and trying to get help, they had administrative obstacles to face,” said Alyssa Schledwitz, vice president of SPARC and a senior physiology and neurobiology major.
“We got such a positive outpouring from students at our event,” said Anthony Sartori, co-president of SPARC and a senior psychology major. “Before Wednesday [Feb. 21], thousands of people on campus were not talking about mental health. I think people are realizing we are in a crisis and that we’re finally talking about it.”
“I think this is a very important movement. I really commend SPARC for getting around to these issues,” said Sharon Kirkland-Gordon, director of the Counseling Center.
The Counseling Center allows six free sessions for individual student sessions and eight for couples sessions during a year’s span, before referring them to another professional outside of the university, according to its website.
“The end goal is to hire more counselors and professional health representatives to decrease the 30-day waiting period,” Schledwitz said. “The counselors are pouring their hearts into their work but there is just so much demand, so they’re having a hard time keeping up with it.”
The movement also aims to make students aware of the various mental health care resources available on campus, Sartori said.
“Right now what we’re hearing from students is that it’s hard to find out how to make an appointment and it’s stressful,” he said.
SPARC and the Counseling Center are working together on how to address these problems. Kirkland-Gordon said she and other Health Center administrators met with SPARC on Wednesday morning to start a conversation and collaborate with each other.
Getting an initial appointment at the Counseling Center generally takes two weeks rather than 30 days, Kirkland-Gordon said.
“We don’t want to give the message that you can’t get help from the Health Center,” she added.
To get more people on campus involved, SPARC held an information and recruitment meeting on March 1, and took part in the Terps Take Care fair, Schledwitz said.
“We’re just trying to show faculty and administration that when we organize together on campus we can make real change,” Schledwitz said.