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Community of Help

Counseling Services focuses on wellbeing of students

Crystal Leming at the Counseling Services center

From The Ichabod - Spring 2018

October on the Washburn University campus is filled with school spirit as Homecoming celebrations bring alumni back to campus, student activities are in full swing, and students are immersed in their classes and coursework.

It’s also the busiest time of year for Counseling Services at Washburn University.

The weather changes. It gets darker earlier in the evening. And six weeks into the semester, classes are more challenging and students are facing midterm exams. They are also realizing their lives back home with family and friends are changing forever.

Crystal Leming, ma ’12, started interning in Washburn’s Counseling Services her final year of graduate school, and said the center was already seeing an uptick in usage by students. Now as director of Counseling Services, Leming said the center averages about 1,350 visits a year, but there have been years with more than 1,500 sessions.

Leming believes the increase in visits is the result of programming geared to decrease the stigma of those seeking counseling and the expectation among students that it is offered on college campuses.

“On the national level, mental health has become a more open subject, so it’s not just universities that promoted it differently, but it’s certainly our culture that has promoted mental health and mental wellness in a different way,” she said.

Not only has the decrease in stigma attributed to the increase in counseling services, but student demographics are a factor too.

Crystal Leming at the Counseling Services center“There are more students coming to college and looking to be successful in college with more significant concerns prior to their admission,” she said. “Before, those students would have seen college as something that was out of reach for them. I don’t think they would have considered college, and I don’t think they would have expected to come and expected to do well. They may have had different life opportunities and may have even made the choice not to come and sought employment that played to their strengths without seeking a degree. Now college is being seen more as a necessity, and so the students who might have said ‘those hurdles are steep and I can do things without a degree,’ are seeing a degree as necessary to their future employment, and they are coming despite those challenges.”

Washburn Counseling Services employs two counselors and a campus advocate. Anxiety and depression are what counselors see the most when visiting with students, but relationships with others – friends, family and significant others – are also a major issue.

“Universities always talk with students about how amazing college is going to be and those things are true,” Leming said. “But universities don’t always talk with students about the fact that, often, everyone they know is suddenly going to be very far away, and they are going to need to build new communities of support. Universities talk about being involved and living on campus. We help students make the connection between those messages and community engagement as a component of their emotional wellbeing.”

In addition to continuously shaping Counseling Services to meet student needs, Washburn has increased its awareness of sexual assault and violence prevention on campus.

Molly Steffes-Herman, bs ’12, serves in Counseling Services, providing advocacy and case management to students at Washburn as a campus advocate, a new position within the last two years. She works every day to help victims of crime by offering assistance in safety planning, navigating the criminal justice system and providing emotional support and resources. She said students have always needed these resources, and now more than ever as the #MeToo and Times Up movements have created a platform for students to open up about their experiences, they need to know they are supported by their University and by Counseling Services.

“Washburn, and just college in general, that’s where you can discover your likes and your dislikes and have unique experiences, discover things you are passionate about and make lifelong connections,” Steffes-Herman said. “You’re preparing yourself for adulthood, and there needs to be support systems on campus so students are successful academically, emotionally and physically.”

While community services are available and utilized by students, the services at Washburn are free to students so there isn’t a barrier on who receives support. Providers working at Washburn have a broader understanding of the systems and services in place to help students succeed making it easier to connect and reconnect students utilizing Counseling Services back to the campus community.

“Our aim is that if you are a more functional person, then you are a more functional student by default,” said Leming. “If we can help students feel better, they are going to learn better and be more likely to stay in college and graduate.”

Spring 2022 The Ichabod cover. Sculpture on the lawn north of Memorial Union

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. View the current and past editions


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