Students host vigil and criticize counseling center

University of Illinois students held a vigil on Nov. 1 to share their condolences for the life a student that committed suicide late October and to bring awareness the mental health crisis hitting college students.

“We’re demanding transparency about student suicides,” student Janina Rojas said. “Just the fact that there’s been no statement yet. Come on. Why are we the one’s announcing it?”

Rojas is referring to a student that committed suicide in Hopkins Hall late October. News of the suicide spread online because a message spray painted on the side of the main library spread saying “This really is it for me. I lost,” circulated around the same time.

It is not entirely known if the same person wrote the message. Two more similar messages appeared after the suicide had been announced.

At the vigil, students expressed anger and frustration with how the university responded to the suicide and mental health in general.

“We need more resources,” student Sarena Abdallah said. “The resources that we currently have here at UIUC are insufficient. Twenty counselors aren’t enough for 40,000 students and 20,000 isn’t enough to fund resources.”

Students asked why hadn’t the university addressed the suicide. Sue Stock, associate director of clinical services at the counseling center said there is more to addressing the issue that students aren’t thinking about, including privacy.

“Honestly, it’s just good practice,” she said. “I mean, who would come to us if they knew we would be telling everybody. It is just a foundation to the services that we offer.”

Due to federal and state laws, the counseling center cannot directly address students about the suicide. But for Rojas, there is still an issue.

“We still can’t deny that there’s a bunch of suicidal students on campus,” she said. “So let’s unpack that. Why is that happening on our campus?”

Rojas understands that the university cannot say much about the suicide itself, but she wishes that they would remind students the services that the university offers to help in this trying time.

Students also criticized the management of the counseling center as a whole. Many students mentioned how they have to call early in the morning just to be lucky enough to schedule an appointment later in the day.

Stock says that though she realizes that the counseling center can do better, it’s comments like these that can hurt the effectiveness of the counseling center.

“One of the things that does concern me when people have inaccurate information, is that if they put that out there, then that might discourage somebody who needs help from getting help,” Stock said.

Stock suggests that if students really want to see change, they need to talk directly to the counseling center. The counseling center has student ambassadors that help implement new ideas and take into account student feedback.

“If student’s have ideas about how we could be better, marketing or getting our information out there, we would be more than happy to hear that,” she said.

Jose Zepeda

Jose Zepeda is a senior at the University of Illinois majoring in journalism and minoring in political science. He is now on his third year with Good Morning Illini, previously serving as director, reporter and crew member. He is also currently a digital intern for WILL, the NPR- and PBS- affiliate in Urbana and vice-president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists University of Illinois chapter. He also has his own podcast with fellow GMI-er Angelle Cortes called Just Chillin’. He brings previous experience as a features intern at The News-Gazette and as a daytime news editor at The Daily Illini. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @JoseZepedaTV.