Officials at the University of Illinois at Chicago say they should be paid more, perhaps because the demand for student health in recent years has become more difficult and time-consuming to address, while administrators have failed to respond adequately.
A group of more than 34,000 students went on strike on Tuesday after nine months of negotiations. They want the university to raise their salaries by 21 percent over the next three years and raise the minimum salary for students from $50,000 to $61,000. They are also calling for administrators to provide all students with mental health screenings and increase their access to mental health services on campus.
In response, administrators earlier this week approved a $4.47-million mental health grant that they say will, among other things, fund the opening of a health center on campus and the hiring of licensed therapists, therapists, psychologists and paramedics, such as and is a consultant to advise them on ways to improve mental health care.
Although there has been an increase in college tuition this year, faculty and other staff often complain that their salaries have not kept up with inflation or the workload. It’s not often that students’ mental health issues come up for discussion.
About 80 percent of teachers nationwide say they have had a conversation with a student in the past year about the student’s mental health, and about 20 percent said that helping their students’ mental health interfered with themselves, according to data compiled by Sarah Ketchen Lipson, an assistant professor at Boston University School of Public Health who has studied psychiatry in education.
Lipson said that in the last decade, there has been a continuous increase in the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and suicide among young people, with a significant increase since 2016. According to a recent study Lipson conducts, called the Healthy Minds Study, more than 50 percent of the students who were exposed were diagnosed with anxiety or depression.
Lipson said recently, many students have reported that mental illness is interfering with their academic performance.
Faculty members are working on conceptual and emotional work so that they can care for students the way they need to be cared for.
According to the most recent Healthy Minds data collection, nearly 80 percent of students surveyed reported that their mental health interfered with their studies at least one or more days in the past month, and more than a quarter of students reported that they study. Disruption due to mental health for six days or more.
“If you think about the main symptoms of depression, such as a lack of hope for the future, [they] it makes it difficult to do other things that add more money, like education,” said Lipson. “There is no immediate reward for one effort. It takes two or four years or more of investing in education to get that degree.”
At UIC, union members say they’re pushing for more on-campus health care and free psychiatric and neurological screenings for students to identify disabilities. Currently, undergraduates are limited to 20 sessions and on-campus counseling centers during their time as students.
Mark Magoon, head teacher in the English department, said that in addition to talking with students about their mental health problems, they also try to provide accommodations for struggling students who are absent from school or miss deadlines. Magoon said they do this to help students succeed, but he thinks extracurriculars offered to help people with mental illness should be approved.
“That means we’re going to stop overtime, that we’re going to change the rules, that we’re going to sacrifice a little bit more and spend more time on our ideas,” Magoon said. “And we love to do that, but it goes on and on and there’s no proper promotion that’s going to step back and reward us.”
Yael Lenga, a 19-year-old junior majoring in sociology and engineering, joined teachers on the picket lines Tuesday.
“Having access to mental health education is a very powerful part of my life as an undergraduate,” Lenga said. “The elementary school students don’t have any unity and they don’t have the ability to work together, which means it’s up to the teachers and graduates to stand up for us.”
Lenga said that last week, he has been collecting testimonials from fellow students about how they use mental health resources at school. Lenga said the students talked about the need for development and that they often go to teachers for help.
“All the way, these testimonies have been saying that it is not only important to get mental health care, but that the members of the school are working on mental and emotional work to take care of the students as they should be. be careful,” said Lenga.
Krall said the university’s new mental health plan is not comprehensive, doesn’t involve faculty and students in decision-making and doesn’t include a timeline for implementing the changes. Krall is concerned that the university announced a partnership with the American College Health Association to help develop a plan to deal with student mental health problems, instead of ensuring that all students will be tested.
“What they’re saying is they’re going to hire a consultant who can help them figure out what to do,” Krall said. “We’ve seen a lot of mentors at the university over the years, and it doesn’t always come out.”