Cook Counseling Center

On average, 25% of college students in the United States will be diagnosed with depression and 27% with anxiety.

According to a 2008 survey of directors of campus psychological counseling centers, 95% of directors saw a significant increase of students with severe psychological problems.

According to the Virginia Tech Mental Health Task Force Recommendation Report, 14% of Virginia Tech students are diagnosed with depression and 16% of students are diagnosed with anxiety.

37% of Virginia Tech students were frustrated with the long delays between appointments at Cook Counseling Center. The Cook Counseling Center has seen a 43% increase in clients from 2013 to 2017.


Our Survey

We created a survey asking Virginia Tech students open-ended questions about mental health and Cook Counseling Center. The survey was distributed through a Virginia Tech student Facebook page. We had 21 students take the survey and 2 of which were willing to be interviewed.

Of the 21 participants in the survey, 90% answered that they have difficulty controlling anxiety to some degree.

Figure 4 shows that 90% also said that they feel overwhelmed and Figure 3 displays that 37% answered that they feel unhappy with life to a certain extent. This reveals that anxiety is incredibly common among Virginia Tech students who took this survey and that depressive thoughts effect roughly a quarter of the survey participants.

Despite Figure 1 showing that 90% of participants feel stress, Figure 2 shows that only 47% of them have used Cook Counseling services and a quarter of these participants stated that they did not feel comfortable seeking help through Cook.

Overall, this gives the exigence for there to be better information for Virginia Tech students on how they can access the services Cook offers and puts responsibility on the university to remove any stigma that may surround seeking mental health services on campus.

Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3 Figure 4

Our Interview Results

Interviewee #1 indicated that they felt welcomed and listened to, and that the counselor truly cared about their well-being. Interviewee #2 also felt that their counselor was attentive.

Both participants mentioned that they would in fact recommend the counseling services to students who may be struggling. Interviewee #2 noted that although they were initially apprehensive about talking to a stranger about deeply personal matters, they eventually found the experience to be cathartic, and that it helped them let go of some long-held concerns.

Although the overall reception was positive, both of our interviewees did mention the long wait times between appointments and the inconvenient scheduling. Interviewee #1 noted that they felt the appointment was helpful, but that it would have had a greater impact if they were able to be seen earlier in the semester. This suggests that Interviewee #1 had to wait several weeks after their initial inquiry to finally be seen. Cook Counseling does offer walk-in appointments, however, these are reserved for students in crisis. The Center does not go into specific details on their website about who qualifies as a student in crisis, but Interviewee #2 recalled that a significant portion of their walk-in appointment was dedicated to ensuring they are not a harm to themselves or anyone around them.

Conclusion

From the survey and follow-up interviews, we found that many of the students across each grade often feel overwhelmed or anxious. About 38% of respondents did not feel happy about life. However, over half of the respondents said they would be comfortable seeking help at Cook Counseling Center and 47.3% of respondents said they had been at Cook Counseling Center.

After conducting research, along with personal anecdotes, we were curious about the feasibility of implementing an online appointment system in Cook Counseling Center. We weren’t able to determine the actual reason why this system wasn’t already in place, when so many of Virginia Tech’s services provide this benefit. Privacy concerns were also an issue, as anonymity is a crucial aspect for people with mental health concerns to eventually speak out. We decided this was a potential concern for skewed data, as learning about characteristics and symptoms of these disorders can cause survey participants to actually exaggerate or even underestimate their own perceptions of their mental health. Since there was no correlation to this idea from our data, we disregarded the thought of bias. Regarding the interviews, it would have been helpful to get two different perspectives on Cook Counseling, as we felt it would’ve have provided a more holistic insight into the student experience with their services. Nonetheless, the interviewees still provided valuable information that helped widen our understanding on the subject of mental wellness.

We had two participants willing to be interviewed, both of which said that they had positive experiences at Cook Counseling Center. The counselors were attentive and the participants recommended their peers to go to Cook Counseling Center if they needed help. One interviewee was frustrated with the wait time for their initial appointment. The other interviewee was concerned that only the walk-in appointments were for students in crisis.

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