Improvement in Counseling Services at BYU and BYU Idaho in light of the Tanner Suicide

Improvement in Counseling Services at BYU and BYU Idaho in light of the Tanner Suicide

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BYU Idaho Student started this petition to BYUI Counseling Center and

On the 3rd of December at Brigham Young University, a 19 year old girl committed suicide by jumping off the 4th floor of the Tanner Building. After the tragedy, a note was found taped to the CAPS door, stating the following:

An open letter to the Officials at Brigham Young University, and BYU Counseling and Psychological Services

Dear Brigham Young University,

If I killed myself today, would the university mourn my death? Would you ask yourselves why this happened, or simply say this couldn’t be helped? Would my death mean anything, or would I simply become part of your empty statistic; of the forgotten students who have already taken their lives this year?

How about my professor and mentors, would they miss me? Do I give value to the university and my classes, or am I simply the girl who struggles to come to class? Would they be made known of my death, or would I be given failing grades because I was no longer there? If anyone of them were deeply affected by my death, would they be given help or assistance? The assistance and help I desperately needed but wasn’t there for me.

How about my roommates, friends, and co-workers? If they struggled; would you help, could you help them? Or would they too simply be forgotten?

Would you ask yourself, if I asked for help? Because the answer is I did. I have a therapist on campus, and he is wonderful and well qualified. But I only see him once a month. Because he has too many clients to see in one week. We are made into a number to be shuffled through the counseling center so that the university can say they’re helping. But for those of us that are in desperate need of care, we are lost in the masses of students who struggle.

On the surface, you say you can offer help and assistance. You encourage all students to make use of the counseling and psychological services. But behind closed doors, the truth is whispered: CAPS can’t truly help, so go somewhere else. My wonderful friend who was sexually assaulted was told not to go to on-campus counselors because they could not give her the help she needed when she needed it. Our story is not unique, it is the story of many of us barely getting by here at BYU.

If I died would anything change? Would you make sure the loss of my life and countless others meant something, instead of simply becoming a forgotten unknown statistic? Will you allow the tragic even that occurred in the Tanner Building to mean something, and be a catalyst for change? Or will it become a part of the unknown statistic, a forgotten event that is simply whispered about for years to come?


A struggling concerned BYU student

This letter describes the experiences of nearly all students with mental illness such as depression at Brigham Young University, and is not dissimilar from the situation at the Brigham Young University of Idaho. At BYU, there is roughly 1 therapist employed for every 1000 students. 1 in every 5 Americans have some form of mental illness. This means, that to be able to provide therapy for those that are in need of it, BYU needs to have the staff to make 6600 weekly appointments for their 33,000 students. If this were attempted by the current staff of 32, including 3 only employed part time, each would need to be able to schedule 207 appointments a week. This number at BYU Idaho, with 14 employed counselors and an average of about 20,000 students, needs to schedule 4,000 students a week, or 286 appointments each. Both schools have vastly understaffed counseling services. Speaking from experience however, BYU Idaho manages their appointments differently. Almost everyone that gets in has weekly appointments for as long as they wish during the semester, and everyone else doesn't get seen. It wasn't until this week that I've been able to get into therapy this semester, and I've been on the wait list since early September. I personally struggle with both Major Depressive Disorder as well as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. With two weeks left in the semester, there's little point in starting therapy. I would go to a private practitioner, but I can't afford it due to tuition and rent costs.

Both schools have major issues with their counseling services, leaving most students with mental illness either unseen, or barely seen. The system is ineffective and has long been in need of major reform.

There are many ways to improve the facilities, but the most important one is very simple, to hire more therapists. Both of these schools have vastly grown in enrollment over the years, but the growth of the counseling services has been stagnant.

Assuming a moderate 5 appointments a day, and 5 days in the work week (45 minute long appointments with 15 minutes in-between, a lunch hour and one hour of breaks leading to a 7 hour workday and 45 hour workweek), The bare minimum effective amount of therapists is 1 in every 25 students with mental illness, or 1 in every 125 students. For Brigham Young University, that means 264, and for the Brigham Young University of Idaho, 160.

Of course, reform as large as this takes time and money. However, BYU is meeting with their trustees in January to propose hiring more counselors. This petition is to urge BYU Idaho to do the same, and the members of both boards to consider these statistics and work towards those numbers, 264 and 160 are both very high, but as evidenced by recent events as well as both counseling centers being overwhelmed for years, reform is not just a possible option, but a necessity. We understand that this may lead to increases in tuition over the years, but that's to be expected with any growing university, and BYU and BYU Idaho have vastly outgrown their capacity, and need to make significant changes.

Personal story
I'm a fellow student, struggling with mental illness while pursuing an education, being made increasingly difficult by the overwhelmed counseling services. I do not hold the Universities, their faculty, or their trustees to blame for this recent tragedy or the failure of its counseling services. The only failure present is a lack of expansion of capacity when faced with the growth of student enrollment. There is still time to rectify this and prevent more lives from being lost. Those who have taken their life and their loved ones will never be the same, but further tragedy can be prevented.

The number shuffled around here is 10,600, the approximate number of students who need help at these two universities. Only approximately 1,150 of them can actually receive it.

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