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Saturday, October 23, 2021
The independent student publication of The Unversity at Buffalo, since 1950

A letter to Vice President for Student Life Brian Hamluk

We have a mental health crisis on campus. Let’s fix it.

Dear Vice President for Student Life Brian Hamluk,

On behalf of the entire staff of The Spectrum, we are delighted to welcome you to campus as the new vice president for student life. It’s an exciting time for our university, as we emerge from this pandemic stronger and more resilient than before.

Unfortunately, it’s also a scary time, especially for the thousands of students who feel isolated, anxious and overwhelmed. Every minute of every day, our students are suffering in silence. As a staff, we strongly believe this university has a mental health crisis — and, as a result, the administration has a moral responsibility to act.

Of course, we are far from the only school with this problem.

Students across the country report strong feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. But we are not the rest of the country; we are a community of 30,000 vibrant students.

And as the vice president for student life, it is your responsibility to ensure that we all have access to the mental health services we so desperately need.

We decided to come together as a united front to advocate for further mental health services. As journalists, but also as humans, we believe we have a responsibility to shine a light on the issues that matter most to us all.

And, as students who work, play and study on this campus, we believe there is no more important — or pressing — issue than that of mental health, especially in the wake of troubling and heartbreaking recent developments.

Here are our demands:

  • Unlimited counseling sessions. Counseling Services currently caps counseling sessions at 10 per academic year. We believe this isn’t nearly enough, as many students require additional help from qualified professionals. We demand greater funding for Counseling Services, so it can fulfill its responsibility as an on-campus mental health provider and support the very students it claims to support.
  • Create a ‘long-term’ counseling option. Students are currently referred off campus if they have serious mental health concerns. This is unacceptable; students who are spending thousands of dollars on a “total institution” should have support for their very real needs on campus. They shouldn’t have to worry about a lack of insurance or scheduling logistics.
  • Mental health days. Students are asked to skip class because they have been exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19, but no such policies are in place for the very real mental ailments those same students deal with every day. We believe students should be able to take three “mental health days” per semester, in an effort to catch up on schoolwork, sleep and mentally recharge.
  • Mental health training for students. During the summer before their freshman year, students are required to complete an alcohol and sexual violence training. We believe the university should also mandate a mental health training, where students would become familiar with emotional first aid and learn how to help their peers — and themselves — in case they develop a mental health problem or experience a mental health crisis.
  • Mandatory training for professors. Many professors are sympathetic toward students’ mental health needs; some are not. We demand that the university implement mandatory mental health training for professors, so they are equipped with the tools and sensitivity necessary to support students in crisis.
  • Plaster signs around campus. Campus is currently filled with signs extolling the importance of wearing a mask, completing the Daily Health Check and washing your hands. We demand that the university place flyers and other materials around campus explaining the importance of emotional first aid and listing mental health resources.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. We can’t bear to receive another email confirming our worst fears. Please don’t delay in making changes. Our community is counting on you.

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