Wellness Center Director: ‘The Mental Health of the Majority of Our Students is Good’


Kelly Langevin

The Counseling and Wellness Center located in Willard-DiLoreto Hall.

Nathalia Blair, Staff Writer

The director of Counseling and Student Development Michael Russo, said that the majority of Central Connecticut State University students’ mental health is good at the Faculty Senate meeting on April 3. 

Russo went on to qualify that statement.

“Many more students are struggling with mental health challenges than we had seen in the past,” he said. “So, even though the majority of our students are doing well, we are seeing that the group of students that are struggling are increasing.”

Russo said this increase started in 2020.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “The number of students who are struggling with mental health challenges and seeking help on campus is increasing year over year.”

Since the fall of 2020, there has been an 82% increase in the number of students receiving counseling and a 48% increase in students scheduling counseling appointments, according to Russo’s presentation.

Russo also presented data on students experiencing mental health emergencies.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health challenges are increasingly complex,” he said. “The number of students transported to the emergency health department for mental health reasons has increased 130% since fall of 2021 compared to fall of 2022. The number of students reporting suicidal ideation at their first appointment is up 86%”

Jason Larose, a junior and a business analytics major at CCSU, said based on his experience at the school, there are a lot of different options for students struggling with their mental health.

“Obviously, COVID-19 affected a lot of people,” he said. “I would say they [CCSU] took an extra step into giving that opportunity to people to make sure they are doing okay while in school, especially. I know how stressful school and outside of school can be.”

Russo said students are using substances to cope with stress more than ever before, too.

“Students are struggling to couple in effective ways,” he said. “They’re struggling to cope in healthy ways, they’re really using substances in a way they have never used before.”

Crystal Salazar, a sophomore and a criminal justice major at CCSU, said mental health should be more publicized by the school.

“I find out [counseling sources] from my friends mainly, I think they should definitely post posters and stuff, and who you can contact for therapy,” she said. “When I first wanted to go to therapy, it was a little difficult because I didn’t know who to contact, I didn’t know what to say or anything.”

Faculty is encouraged to mention counseling services provided at the start of the semester, before midterms and before finals, as well as included in their syllabus, Russo said. He said faculty can help by assisting students in healthy self-care activities during stressful times.

“You [Faculty] can help our prevention initiatives on campus by encouraging students to attend [wellness activities] and for those of you who can,” he said. “Give extra credit for proof of participation. We know a number of faculty have been doing that and we appreciate it when you do.”

Marieliz Vazquez, a freshman and business management major at CCSU, said the transition was a shock since she had not been in a physical classroom since her junior year of high school when she chose to stay at home because of her physical health.

“That transition from high school to college was very drastic and I wasn’t prepared for that mentally, so I think that had a part in me failing,” she said. “Now I’m getting better and my grades are improving and learning new techniques.” 

Valazquez said CCSU has a lot of good resources that are not being talked about, such as free tutoring and writing workshops.

Faculty are advised to be more considerate, Russo said.

“I strongly encourage you to take the first step instead of waiting for them to come to you,” Russo said. ‘If you suspect something may be wrong, reach out to the student, talk to them, ask them if everything is ok. There’s hurt behind the struggle.”

The ‘Student Wellness Center’ is open Mondays to Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Willard DiLoreto Hall.