I’ve had depression since I was in middle school, so I’ve become almost a professional at dealing with the waves of emotion it brings (kind of morbid, I know). But this semester, it got to the point where I didn’t know how to handle it by myself anymore – I wasn’t eating regularly, I was staying up until four or five in the morning on a consistent basis, and I wasn’t interested in anything that had previously brought me joy. It was so bad that even my friends started to notice.
That’s when I decided it was time to do something I absolutely hate: ask for help.
I went into the Counseling Center to ask a question for an article I was writing, and as I was leaving, I turned around and said, “Actually, can I make an appointment for myself?”
I was surprised at my impulsiveness, but it needed to be done. After my first meeting, my counselor and I decided it would be best for me to continue to come back once a week, and it has actually helped a hell of a lot more than I thought it would. But I also discovered something else “wrong” with me: I have anxiety disorder.
This really didn’t come as a shock to me. In fact, it was a relief because it put a label on some of the feelings I could never pinpoint. After about two months of weekly meetings with my counselor and a few small lifestyle changes, I decided to make one big change and ask for medication for my depression and anxiety.
This past Monday, I asked my counselor about it, and she told me that the psychiatrist provided by MSU wouldn’t be back to see new patients until next semester because they “cannot afford to pay him for more than 12 hours per semester, and he has already reached his limit.”
I can go to another doctor somewhere in town and start the process of getting medication, but I am not from here. My family doctor is back home in Southlake, and I’m not going to drive two hours home for that. If I were to attempt to see a doctor here in Wichita Falls, I would still have to establish a history with them first. By the time I would actually be able to get the medication, it would be next semester anyway because of Thanksgiving break and winter break.
So what would be my quickest and easiest option [the MSU psychiatrist, Dr. Ron Hall] is now out of reach, because MSU can’t afford to pay him to come back for more than 12 hours.
And I was not the only one waiting in line. There were two other students in the Counseling Center asking to see the psychiatrist as well, and they couldn’t get an appointment either.
From my experience, mental illness has never been taken seriously. I recall my own mother laughing at me the first time I told her I had depression, because as she said, “Depression isn’t a real thing. It’s all in your head.” It’s 2015 – this stigma needs to end, and needs to end now.
I can wait until next semester for medication (not that I really have a choice), but for students who may have more severe cases, this is unacceptable. It takes courage to talk about mental illness, and students should not have to hear that they must wait two months for help. That can make or break their decision to actually try and get better.
The solutions to this problem are pretty simple: MSU can find a less expensive psychiatrist, or increase the budget for health services. We need real solutions for real problems.
It’s not all in our heads.