Content warning: This article discusses PTS, depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. Scroll to the last two paragraphs of this post for protest info.
Though I personally have not used Kenyon’s Peer Counseling services, several of my closest friends visit them often. I tried going to the Counseling Center during my first two years here. During those two years, I never learned the necessary coping mechanisms for what was later diagnosed (by psychiatrists outside of Kenyon) as PTS. Not only did the Counseling Center fail to diagnose my Post-Traumatic Stress, but the counselor I met with during my first year told me that I wasn’t dissociating. I wasn’t trying to deal with trauma. No. Teenagers just have conflicts with their parents sometimes– especially when they have depression and anxiety.
To this day, I still struggle to call my PTS by name because a mental health professional employed by the Kenyon College Counseling Center told me, a vulnerable and confused seventeen-year-old, that I wasn’t being abused (translation: that I was making it up in my head). The next time anyone tries to tell you that students who visit the Counseling Center can expect “to be treated with dignity and respect, to be listened and responded to, to be assisted in creating strategies to meet your concerns and to be honored as a complete, competent, adaptable human being,” feel free to show them this article (quote via the official Counseling Services webpage). This was not my experience during my first year. It was a while before I decided to try out the Counseling Center again.
My second counselor was more helpful than the first but my meetings with them were limited to fifty-minute time slots once every two weeks, if at all. I would have to go to the Counseling Center to reschedule my appointment each week– I wasn’t guaranteed a regular slot. I tried scheduling via email and was told I had to go to the Center in person. FYI, if you’re trying to counsel someone through PTS, it’s very difficult to do so through irregular fifty-minute time slots. It took me three years and one summer of intensive hospital out-patient care (again, outside of Kenyon) to achieve my current level of stability. In simpler terms, I’m functional because my parents could pay for it. Out-patient care, in-patient care, and therapy can be very costly. It usually requires health insurance. This means that students who aren’t able to receive treatment back home are dependent upon College resources (like the PCs) to help them make it through four years of an intense workload combined with complicated social dynamics. My Kenyon counselor tried to help but they didn’t have the capacity to do so. This was not their fault. This was due to an understaffed Counseling Center with limited hours of operation.
My story is probably one of many you’ve heard over the past couple of weeks. Fun fact, most of the anecdotes you’re receiving are shortened versions of much longer, messier life struggles. But this article comes with another point– a plea, if you will. During the upcoming week, groups of Kenyon students will be gathering in front of Ransom Hall every day, starting Tuesday, from 11:00-3:00 to protest the changes being made to the Peer Counselor program. The event is in no way affiliated with or organized by the Peer Counselors. It will be a peaceful protest– a sit-in.
The main message, as I understand it, is as follows: we are not liabilities. We are valuable community members. We’re leaders, mentors, activists, and friends. And if you want us to continue to succeed here, just like everyone else, you have to respond to our needs. This week, we’ll be making signs, recording statements, writing emails, and organizing meetings because of how much we want to be safe at Kenyon. This place is my home. I’m not safe where I’m from. Join my peers and I this week if you believe we should be able to care for one another when institutional channels fail to do so. I hope to see you there.