LRU Counselor Discusses Mental Health, Campus Needs

By Alysha Pluta, Student Life Editor

Students come here every day needing help. Sometimes it’s just to give them someone to talk to, others it’s to save them from a complete mental breakdown. Just walking past, you’d never know exactly why a person was there, but no matter what, La Roche counselor, Tricia Katyal’s office would always be the same.

It’s a simple, comfortable office with a couch and two couple comfy chairs. It has a bookshelf full of psychology books, a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State, and a master’s from Duquesne on the wall.

The table in the middle of the room has a bowl of candy, Reese’s’ cups, Hershey bars, KitKats, and other various candy; a tea pot; and a box of tissues.

The harsh, irritating overhead light is off. Instead, there’s soft, warm lamps illuminating the room. A calming smell of lavender and eucalyptus surrounds everyone who enters.

Katyal has been a counselor at La Roche since October 2019, but that was not what she originally set out to do. When she first started college at Ohio State, she was a journalism and political science major.

She graduated from there and proceeded to work in radio advertising for about ten years.

But once she had kids, she said she realized that career path was no longer for her, so she went back to school. This time, she was at Duquesne getting her master’s degree in education with a focus on school counseling.

She said she knew college counseling would be the best fit for her because high school counselors don’t spend as much time counseling students as she wanted to.

Katyal explained she enjoys being able to sit down with students and help them with their problems. That’s exactly what she does.

She spends her days helping La Roche students with any problem they may have. Whether that problem is adjusting to campus life, issues with family and friends, mental health battles, or anything else that might be bothering them, Katyal is there.

Pictured & Courtesy of: Tricia Katyal

Q: Mental health among college students was poor before. It’s worse now and the younger generations are more open about their struggles than ever before. But what caused this increase in issues, the pandemic was a trigger but were there underlying issues that were already there, caused by poor coping mechanisms, or something else?

A: The pandemic was a trigger in some cases. There were so many changes to everyday living that surfaced other underlying issues. For others, it worsened it, adding another layer to be sad about.

It definitely brought up anxiety and depression in people that never had these issues before and worsened it in those who did.

Q: What changes have you specifically seen in students

A: I have seen more awareness about maintaining your own mental well-being. Which is good.

Q: What were changes that seemed unexpected to you?

A: People that might not have reached out in the past to family doctors, counselors, or someone else have been reaching out. There has been less hesitation, in some cases no hesitation at all.

Q: The numbers of people seeking help for mental health treatment has increased in the past few years. Have the numbers of La Roche students in counseling also increased since the pandemic began?

A: There has been a little bit of an increase. A lot of it was probably due to the fact that students could use Zoom and it made talking to someone more convenient. Now that were back to in-person were seeing more students come in.

Q: Generally speaking, do you think La Roche students are getting the help they need?

A: Getting help with your needs depends on the student. It’s hard for the counselors to figure out what everyone needs. But we do our best to let everyone know about our services.

We’ve been working extra hard to team up with services such as the JED Campus Initiative, which is an organization that helps improve campus-wide emotional help. With that along with other activities we do, we hope to keep up general campus awareness.

Q: Do you think the number of people in treatment for mental health issues will increase as the pandemic continues. Will people continue to get help or just stop?

A: Unfortunately, the number in treatment will continue to increase and it does not seem like that will be turning around. I think that more education about mental health will help catch more students while they are up-stream before they have a major mental breakdown.

This is why I started my new class “Wellness and Resilience for College and Beyond”which will teach students skills that will help improve their mental health.

Q: What do you think would happen if people heavily impacted by this increase in mental health stop getting treatment? What do you think would have happenedif they never began getting treatment in the first place?

A: I can’t comment on what I think would happen if people don’t seek out treatment or follow through with their existing treatment plan, but I can say that I have seen lots of people do very well when they disclose to someone that they are struggling and that they need some help. 

There are a number of ways to reach out, you can email or stop by the counseling office, you can talk to your doctor, you can even reach out to a professor.  The important piece is taking that first step and reaching out to an adult. 

I always share these resource numbers; Resolve Crisis Services, a free service available 24/7 for those who need to talk or for a counseling referral.  For someone in crisis there is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 to talk or 741741 to text.

Q: In your opinion as a counselor, what are the long-term affects this decrease in all over mental health issues affect people?

A: As more individuals struggle with their mental health, a positive outcome of these increased numbers could be better awareness of the multiple ways you can reach out to get the help you need. 

Having the knowledge of where to go when you are struggling along with the idea that no one ever has to do this alone is my hope for everyone in need.

Katyal’s new class, Wellness and Resilience for College and Beyond (PSYC1001-01), will teach students emotional problem-solving skills. If anyone is interested, contact Katyal for more information and your academic advisor to see if it would work with your schedule.

If anyone is seriously struggling with mental health, reach out to La Roche’s counseling services, call Resolve Crisis Services at (888) 796-8226, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to talk or 741741 to text.

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