For my activism, I hoped to investigate an issue that has bothered me for a while. I felt as if mental health services were not accessible enough to UMBC students. My sophomore, I was going through a hard time, and I really thought it was time to reach out to the UMBC counseling center. However, when it came down to it, it took me over a week to build up the courage to make an appointment. Why? Because a phone call is the only option student have to make an appointment. I couldn’t wrap my head around this because nowadays everything is done over email or some app. One thing I’ve found with everyone I know with anxiety is that they hate talking on the phone. I know I do. When people with anxiety need the counseling services, they may feel as if they’re inaccessible because there is not a service that caters to their needs. So when I got the opportunity for this activism project, I wanted to do something that mattered to me.
Originally I wanted to do some type of campaign to encourage the counseling center to create an online appointment service. However, eventually it occurred to me that if they don’t have one yet there must be a reason. Here, I decided that the best course of action would be to talk to the director, Dr. Bruce Herman. After weeks of trying to find an appointment slot that work for the both of us, we finally had a very productive talk. I wanted to know about the counseling center as a whole. Dr. Herman also told me that he thinks people are starting to utilize the center’s services more now. Finally, we got to talk about the appointment services. It was really eye opening.
Now, I was facing another challenge. Dr. Herman and I discussed the pros and cons of implementing an online appointment making service. He told me that the main reason such a service doesn’t exist currently is because they would be unable to determine the severity of the situation. With phone calls or in person interaction, the employees at the counseling center are able to provide more prompt help. However, I brought up to him my experience with social anxiety. I was happy to see that he took this seriously. I remembered how, in class, we talked about how sometimes you have to work with your enemy to make change. Not to say that Dr. Herman or the counseling center was my enemy, but I never would have found out the reason why they decided against online services up to this point.
I also never would have found out that the center with be revamping their website to make it more user-friendly. Dr. Herman mentioned that he appreciated me bringing his attention to some things that they may have not considered originally. Now, they may be considering incorporating an online appointment service when the new website is implemented.
The biggest thing I learned from this project is that activism can be small. I kept reminding myself of the definition we came up with in class: that activism is living your beliefs. I fought my own anxiety (and my overwhelming school and work schedule); this was activism for me. Also, I got to sit down and talk about something that mattered to me: making mental health services more accessible to my peers. Though I may not have made the difference this semester, I hope that my views will be taken into consideration in the future of the counseling center after I’m gone. The project was a little more small-scale than I had originally hoped, but I still think I made a difference by simply implanting an idea.
I also encourage everyone to checkout the services that are already available online: http://counseling.umbc.edu/services/
Also, keep an eye out for the new-and-improved site that will also be more entwined with University Health Services (UHS).