Counselors reach out to campus

A higher demand for mental health services has caused the Office of Counseling Services to reach out more to students this fall semester.

“Most students, I would say, want to talk about relationships, depression or anxiety,” said master’s intern Rachelle Jean-Louis. “There will always be a demand.”

“A lot of people just want to talk about a bad day,” said Allison Lockard, a counselor in the office.

Although Florida A&M University offers these services free of charge for students, the Office of Counseling Services at the Sunshine Manor has not seen as many students as expected this semester.

“We have more visitors closer to midterms and finals,” Lockard said.

“We want more visibility on campus,” Jean-Louis said.  “We want students to know they’re not alone.”

This semester there are group sessions offered in health and well-being, transitions for freshmen females and grief.  “Group sessions offer peer support,” Jean-Louis said.  “You’re never alone on these issues.”

Grief group counseling will be offered Nov. 14 and 28, and students are allowed to attend both sessions. 

“A lot of students come from home to a lot of stress,” Jean-Louis said. 

“They feel like something’s wrong forever.  This isn’t true.”

Adonis McQueen, a chemistry graduate student from St. Louis, went to sessions in the past but said he is reluctant to return.

“I went to the counselors a few times in past years, but in my opinion, I was just part of a research project,” McQueen said. “I went by word-of-mouth just to talk about stress, school, you know.”

Jean-Louis reassures students that all sessions are confidential.  The only exceptions would include a threat to self or others, court order or abuse, Jean-Louis said.

On the other hand, some students appreciate the free services counselors provide. 

Anne Matthews, a nursing student from Atlanta, is looking to participate in on-campus counseling. “As an off-campus student, I feel out-of-the-loop,” Matthews said.  “Students need these services, but I wouldn’t know how to sign up.”

Lockard said the staff “holds dorm raids and visits classes.”  Lockard and Jean-Louis also visit various classes to discuss mental health issues.

“We approach professors if they would like to discuss a topic, such as alcoholism, loss, just to name a few,” Lockard said.Counseling staff members also use creative ways such as social events to attract students.

“We’ve been trying to do fun activities like ‘Sweets and Treats’ every Friday,” Jean-Louis said.

If students prefer private sessions, male and female counselors are available during the newly extended office hours. Students can call, e-mail or walk into the office to schedule an appointment.       

“We stay around until 7 p.m. on Thursdays for students who have late classes,” Lockard said.

So far, the group counseling has had mixed reviews.  Not many students showed up for grief counseling, but individual sessions are on the rise, Lockard said.  Lockard uses clients’ advice on group sessions.

“I would like to see a self-esteem/anxiety group,” Lockard said.  “One of my clients gave me the idea.”

Both Lockard and Jean-Louis encourage students to speak out. “The main thing is I’m here to listen and be flexible,” Lockard said.         

The counseling office also employs a psychiatrist for continued therapy or medication. 

The office can be reached at (850) 599-3145 to answer any questions or schedule appointments.