How Henry Ford College Handles Mental Health

Image of a woman sitting in a window with the text "Managaing anxiety and isolation during quarantine"
Image courtesy of Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Last semester, in Fall of 2019, I got some insight as to how Henry Ford College handles mental health for their students. I was pleased how all of my professors handled my situation, but I still think it could be greatly improved if we take a couple more steps.

Last September, a very close family member of mine passed away. While we knew she was sick, we had no idea that we would have to say goodbye so soon. I was out of school for a full week, spending nights in the hospital, being there for my family, and eventually planning the funeral. At this time, I was taking 19 credit hours. I was forced to drop my calculus class, understanding that this would be my second W (Withdrawal) on my transcript.

Luckily my calculus teacher was extremely supportive, and while she was sad to see me go, she knew how difficult of a decision it was for me. The rest of my professors were also incredible. All of my professors allowed me to make up any work that I had missed, including being able to retake tests that I did poorly in during this time. All of my professors advised me to see a school counselor, and one professor even sent flowers.

I can’t help but wonder, however, how the cards would be different if it weren’t me, but someone else. I think of my brother, for example, who is a shy, reserved, teenage boy, who has never been much of a school person. Let’s say in this scenario, the student experiencing this tragedy is not doing great in school, does not have a strong on-campus connection, and is not as personable with their professors. Would they get the same treatment that I did?

Of course, for many professors, the answer might be “yes” because typically most people are understanding of the death of immediate family. However, I did not know that HFC had counselors for non-academic purposes until the semester that I really needed it, which is something that should be improved going forward. A couple ways Henry Ford could advertise their counseling resources is by including them in the Student Activities emails, occasionally posting something about it on their Instagram Social Media page, and encouraging teachers to talk about it.

While some professors include these services in their syllabus, we have to admit that students don’t just casually read the syllabus. Most students assume that their professors’ syllabi are probably about the same, and only refer to them when necessary. With that being said, even if it is in the syllabus, some students may just skim over that section and never refer back to it. A way that we could prevent this from happening is requiring our staff to go over the syllabus in person at the beginning of the semester instead of advising their students to go home and look it over, urge our professors to make a syllabus quiz; or, what I think would be most effective, is to have our faculty just periodically inform students about this resource.

The reason this is so important is because there are many mental health issues that can go undetected by professors. In my case, my professors of course knew that I was grieving, but they didn’t know that I struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my young adult life. These illnesses can be debilitating and can greatly impact a student’s performance, but to a professor, it may just look like the student is slacking off. Overall, HFC should try to spread the word on the amazing resource that counseling can be to students. My counselor was recommended by one of my professors, and she was a great fit for me.

For students that do not already personally know any counselors, HFC’s website makes it so easy to locate. Just go to https://www.hfcc.edu/student-services/counseling and schedule an appointment. Their website goes over all the different services they offer, including career counseling, individual counseling, personal crisis, and assisted learning. On top of that, the website includes options for students outside of business hours: “If you are feeling suicidal, or you urgently need help during non-business hours, please call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. You may also use the National Suicide Prevention Online Chat Service, 24/7.”

If a student is trying to figure out which counselor would be a good fit for them, the website also includes a Meet the Counselors tab, where one can learn more about our counselors. This includes a photo of each counselor, their bachelors, masters, and PhD if applicable, and their areas of specialty. Between the fifteen counselors available, they have almost every situation covered, from special needs to domestic violence; it will be easy to find a good fit.

While doing my research about Henry Ford College’s counseling program compared to other schools, I found that I was highly impressed by some, but extremely underwhelmed by others. For the most part, I would say that HFC and Oakwood Community College (OCC) are on the same plain. OCC has an extremely comprehensive website. I was very impressed with their different sections for counseling—career counseling, coping during covid-19, educational counseling, and personal counseling. Personal counseling includes different sections, including mental health issues, grief issues, and LGBTQ Resources. It is evident that both HFC and OCC take mental health seriously on campus.

Some other, more indirect ways that Henry Ford College is taking steps towards raising awareness is through student clubs. For example, Psi Beta is a Psychology Honors Society that got revived this semester, after many inactive years. Some plans in Psi Beta have been put on hold due to campuses resorting to online only for the remainder of the semester, but at the beginning of the semester, Psi Beta created a loneliness survey that was distributed around campus. The goal of this survey was to see if students on community college campuses are more lonely opposed to a university setting, and if so, which demographic is more lonely than others, and why. After collecting this data, they planned on devising a way to combat the statistics and bring more HFC students together on campus. On top of this, they also planned on spreading awareness and engaging students through statistics and student activities on campus.

Overall, HFC is making a lot of great efforts to support their students who are dealing with mental health issues, and if as a community, we could continue to raise awareness, it would make a world of difference.

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