Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Mailman needs to improve service to gain respect

Published: April 4, 2014
Section: Opinions

I think it’s time I come out of the closet about something. I have told my parents about this, kept them up to date with my progress, and they have been extremely supportive about the whole affair. General media and society have respected the circumstances I have been through, and numerous people I know have done the exact same thing, and I think nothing less of them. Yet I feel vulnerable disclosing any aspect of it with friends. I worry that peers will wind up with a distorted view of me based on this one fact, and I would rather keep it a secret. Additionally, I have had some aspects of my situation derided by those not so familiar with it.

I am in therapy. I go to Mailman House every few weeks or so to talk with someone about issues I’m dealing with. I won’t go into exact detail about it, but it is mostly feelings that date back to before my time in college. I see a counselor back home regularly, with whom I have made a lot of progress. I attend the Brandeis Psychological Counseling Center (PCC) as a sort of support system. I don’t want to fall back into old habits that are potentially destructive, so I make the trek down to one of the numerous brick buildings on campus.

Though I recognize it is a great problem to have and I am fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to someone and work on the obstacles in my life, there is a problem that persists. For whatever reason, some students do not particularly respect the work the PCC does and impose this on whoever utilizes their services. Simple jokes that either mock the level of competency at the PCC or the nature of someone’s particular issue create a dangerous product in the minds of those in need—doubt. If someone is led to believe that seeking help at the PCC won’t amount to anything constructive or that their feelings are baseless, they might be prevented from reaching out in their greatest time of need.

Most people do realize that what they say matters, but the amount of contempt toward the PCC outweighs this. While I appreciate their efforts to help me, I understand that there are gaps in their service. Students have called looking for emergency help, only to be neglected in a dire circumstance. Although some work best through regularly scheduled meetings with a therapist, the most important job of the PCC is to be there as a support for anyone in need at any time. If they cannot help prevent someone from doing something extremely damaging, then they are failing the community. It is nice to offer students options to sit down and discuss matters of stress and anxiety with someone of experience, but if it is late one night, and someone starts falling into a intense depression, a meeting a few days later won’t suffice.

The school does advise students to call Public Safety in times of life emergencies, but that might not always be the best solution. Instead of dealing with the embarrassment of a police cruiser coming to pick you up, a student might want to simply talk with someone without having to enter a hospital. Every case is different, which is why the PCC needs to be more flexible in their services and hours so that no single person is left behind.

Beyond the need to adapt to the lives of students, the PCC needs to find a way to be more amiable in their customer service. Whether it is not being diligent in contacting someone back about setting up an appointment or not providing the gentleness someone in a state of stress or depression needs, the PCC lacks in grace. The office itself runs like a typical private practice with old magazines and random pieces of cheap art hanging on the walls. Having sat in their waiting room numerous times before, I’ve grown accustomed to the mundane level of service, but for someone looking for comfort, as I once was, it isn’t ideal. It isn’t even acceptable. Anyone that walks into Mailman for the first time is there for a very distinct reason, and there should be more acknowledgement of that in the level of compassion shown by the staff.

There is no question that the areas where the PCC falls short are at the forefront of students’ minds. Whenever the subject is mentioned in conversation, there is bound to be an anecdote of one of the many times a student felt overlooked by the PCC, and then the conversation devolves into bashing the department. It is all warranted, and the PCC needs to realize that their shortcomings reflect negatively on the students that utilize the service. Every student was embarrassed when news broke of President Emeritus Reinharz’ enormous compensation, and the same holds true here. The institutions we associate with, whether it be a university or just a portion of it, come to define us as individuals.

I wish I could be more open about my struggles and how much I have overcome personally over the past 18 months or so, something I take pride in, but the general level of incompetence displayed day in and day out by the PCC prevents that. Some of the onus of being ignorant toward therapy and psychological treatment is on the students who chastise it, but they are not alone. The PCC could easily start educating the community as a whole on how to manage not only their own stress or problems, but also friends and peers who suffer through the same things everyone faces and have decided to talk to someone about it. No one should feel ashamed of taking the steps to help themselves, but the way the PCC handles their business makes that the case. Some students have enough to worry about; they don’t need to be worried about the stigma attached with walking into the Mailman House.