Improve mental heath at SCAD

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The Savannah College of Art & Design has been struck by tragedy yet again. Within the first quarter of the 2018-2019 academic year, three student deaths have been reported. While any loss is utterly tragic, the fact that two of these cases were ruled as suicides makes the situation even more dire.

We are a school of artists and creatively-minded individuals and many of us have suffered from or currently suffer from some form of mental health issue. Yet, we have very few options to treat these issues. Our on-campus counseling services are sorely lacking in both the number of available counselors and the types of counseling they provide. Due to these issues students are either faced with waiting two weeks, or more likely upwards of a month, to have a session with a SCAD counselor. That, or they are forced to find privatized counseling that they often cannot afford. Also, for those who have experienced forms of sexual assault, whether on campus or in the surrounding city, there is no specific support system available to the victims other than generalized counseling services that often do not have the specific skills necessary to treat victims. It is obvious that changes are necessary in this flawed system.

While SCAD does offer better mental health services than some college campuses, we would like for some changes to be made. The first change is that SCAD counseling more actively engages with it's students outside of Bradley Hall, the designated counseling building, by making counselors available for group therapy sessions at designated major buildings during midterms and finals weeks. Secondly, we ask that SCAD provides a mandatory assembly among each grade level on an annual basis that informs students of the signs of mental health decline and suicide risk and what to do, or what services are available to them, if they notice these signs in themselves or their peers. Thirdly, we hope that SCAD will hire more counselors, some being specifically trained in sexual assault, so as to decrease the wait time for students to make appointments and allow students with every kind of issue to be addressed. Finally, and most importantly, we ask SCAD to review and amend it's very strict absence policy. While we understand the well-intended, and in some cases necessary, four-absence-per-course policy it has a drastically negative affect on students who are currently suffering from a mental health decline. The change we would like to be made is that if students can either provide written recognition of their mental health decline from a licensed therapist with the guarantee that they will continue treatment or agree to undergo a series of mandatory counseling sessions with SCAD counseling, these individuals be given a 1-2 absence extension per class. With the absence policy looming over them, students feel the need to push past their suffering and attend class which only increases their stress and ultimately harms them more. This needs to change.

We, the students of Savannah College of Art & Design, humbly ask for your consideration of these changes. Our student body is devastated at having lost so many peers and we cannot take another tragedy. Please, take the time to read over our requests and think of the benefit they will have on our community as a whole.