The ANU Counselling Centre has been officially scheduled for expansion, as announced by ANUSA President Ben Gill on 19th February 2015.
ANUSA, alongside the ANU Counselling Centre, was successful in securing funds from Student Services and Amenities Fees (SSAF) negotiations for the renovation of the Centre. The planning stage is anticipated to occur over the next few weeks, with work expected to be completed over Winter break.
The expansion will see the Counselling Centre engage two to three additional clinical psychology interns, resulting in 200-300 additional hours a week of counselling available for students of the ANU. With university students more likely to develop mental health problems than any other age group, and less likely to be able to access mental health services, an expansion of the Centre is an essential step forward in improving the mental health and wellbeing services available to students.
However, one concern that has resulted from the recent announcement is the fact that the money for this expansion has come from negotiations secured by ANUSA, and not from the University itself. This brings into the spotlight the ability of ANU to provide basic services, such as mental health and wellbeing services to the students of the university. The funds from SSAF were agreed to by the Student Associations and the University, but it is reported that all noted that ideally, the project would have been funded centrally. ANUSA President Ben Gill stated a project of a nature would ideally receive central funding.
He noted, however, that “the current budget situation of of the ANU does not allow for such works to be completed”. “Funding through SSAF allows for the benefit to be realised in a much shorter time frame than the University can offer”.
Gill also stated that while the expansion of the Counselling Centre is a significant step forward, there is still more to do in improving the mental health and wellbeing of students.
“It is not just about providing reactionary or crisis supports”, Gill stated, “it is looking at mental health and wellbeing holistically and recognising the importance of prevention, early intervention and building resilience as a key means to fostering a mentally healthy community.”