WARTBURG COUNSELING NUMBERS REMAIN UNCHANGED DESPITE COVID-19 STRESS

NICOLE HASEK, TRUMPET NEWS WRITER
MALÉ GININDZA, TRUMPET GUEST WRITER

At Wartburg, the majority of the 350 students who seek counseling do so to help with managing anxiety, depression and stress, according to Wartburg counseling.

While the number of Wartburg students receiving counseling has not increased this year, COVID-19 is a challenge that may increase levels of stress and anxiety. 

“I think the pandemic is difficult for everyone’s mental health. Many people feel overwhelmed with uncertainty and anticipatory grief,” Molly Wertz, Wartburg counselor, said. “It is like walking around in a constant fog. The online format is not ideal for many students, and may create barriers for learning, which then creates frustration, and at times hopelessness.”

Molly Wertz works in the Pathways Center – Annika Wall

In response to a semester full of challenges, counseling services at Wartburg have planned to cater to students who are in need of mental health resources. These services are available on or off-campus and may also be used by students who are in quarantine or isolation.

COVID-19 has highlighted and increased the demand for mental health services of students even beyond Wartburg, while disrupting the way these services have been offered. According to a World Health Organization article, around three-quarters of students reported at least partial disruptions to school and workplace mental health services.

Shaila Vera, fourth-year Spanish and business administration major, has been using on-campus counseling resources throughout her entire college career so she can talk to someone who isn’t a close friend about anything she’s dealing with. Between this and other counselors she has seen, she said she feels most safe and respected by her Wartburg counselor compared to other counselors she has seen.

“I love talking to my counselor when I get the chance,” said Vera. “When we have our sessions, it is the time allotted only for us to talk through things. When I want to cry, I can without feeling judged. She’s been very helpful with my journey to understanding my mental health.”

Mental health services should also be recognized as an essential service, according to the WHO article. Students who may be overwhelmed with school, work and other parts of their personal life should be provided services to address any issues with mental health.

According to an article by Mental Health America, as the number of cases of COVID-19 increases, so does the associated anxiety. For the general public, the mental health effects of COVID-19 are as essential to address as are the physical health effects.

COVID-19 safety precautions have been added this semester to allow full counseling services at Wartburg to continue. 

“Counselors and clients are wearing masks and sitting at least 6 feet from each other,” Stephanie Newsom, director of Wartburg counseling services, said. “This changes the counseling experience for both the counselor and the client, [since] facial expressions and non-verbal communication is such an important part of the counseling process.”

Wartburg’s counseling team, including Wertz and Newson, has continued to benefit students and their mental health this semester, even while working through a stressful situation that is new to everyone. The level of comfort provided during these sessions is the main reason why students are able to open up and receive everything these services have to offer, Newsom said.

Newsom said she believes the most important part of counseling is the relationship between the client and counselor. She said she makes sure this relationship is strong between her and every student she works with by remaining unbiased, letting the student decide what they want to share and letting them know they only have positive regard for them. 

Wartburg’s counseling services are confidential and offered to every student. For students in quarantine and isolation, Counseling Services offers Zoom services. This option is also open for students who are not comfortable meeting in-person.

Counseling services are located in the Pathways Center, on the third floor of Vogel Library. To get more information and make an appointment for counseling services, visit wartburg.edu/counseling/#remote. 

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