Why universities need to pay more attention to campus counselling

Throughout my education in different institutes, I have been to the counselling room just once. The counsellor asked two other students and me from our sophomore class to visit her office to let us know that we have to do well in our studies because the academy wants us to get higher marks in the board exams, for obvious reasons. The session included grilling us for how we performed in the daily tests. After that day, I decided never to visit that cold dark room again.

The counselling our educational institutes provide in Pakistan are based on grades and nothing more than that. Throughout our childhood, teenage and adulthood, we face much more issues than just grades and studies. Most of the students go through problems that they cannot discuss with their parents, and hence mental health starts getting affected.

The issues include bullying (mostly at schools), harassment (sexual, physical or emotional), self-esteem issues(mostly young people of a certain class), relationship issues, family problems and career or financial problems. The so-called counselling centres at most institutes have counsellors who are not well-trained to be dealing with students. This means that either they don’t belong to a psychology background and hence they can’t understand mental health issues adequately, or they don’t go through training to understand what students in this day and age go through daily.

Another quite prevalent problem is that the universities’ psychology departments are usually responsible for providing students with therapy and counselling. The departments do not hire counsellors; instead, they ask teachers of psychology departments to provide students with the help they need.

A huge number of students, even if they require counselling, do not go to the teachers for counselling because the teachers are or will be their course instructors, which eventually leads them to think about their marks. Students feel hesitant in sharing their personal problems with their own instructors in fear of being judged. It is very well researched that depression, stress, anxiety and other mental health problems are increasingly visible. A cause of concern is that education is actually playing a role in increasing students’ mental health issue.

The kind of power teachers hold mostly at universities, their behaviour towards the students, students not being able to feel respected in classrooms, and turning students not to express their opinions freely and openly are the major causes of stress in students. As students become more aware of their rights, it is important to openly demand and ask the institutions to invest in making counselling accessible at the campus and to hire counsellors who actually know what it means to provide guidance and counselling to students in a way that their well-being is encouraged as well.

This article was written by Zainub Khalid. To write for The Students Herald contact: writetostudentsherald@gmail.com

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