Adding mental health resources to student identification cards has long been a goal for Active Minds at WVU, and with the rise of student concern for mental health resources on campus, they believe it’s more urgent now than ever.
In a letter to the West Virginia University Board of Governors last Friday, Active Minds called for student ID cards, which are issued to all students, to include information regarding mental health resources like the Crisis Text Line and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Many people believe that these numbers can mean the difference between life and death for a student.
“The campus community has been hit hard recently by the tragic loss of one of our own,” Active Minds said in the letter. “While the circumstances around the tragedy are largely unknown, we can only imagine where we would be today had mental health resources been distributed to every student at West Virginia University.”
Having mental health resources on student IDs has been on Active Minds' radar since 2018, when California became one of the first states to pass such a bill addressing the issue.
As of 2020, California now requires any public or private school, including K-12 and higher education, to issue student IDs with the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).
Several states have passed similar legislation since then, not including West Virginia.
Roughly 1,100 college students die by suicide each year, making it the second-leading cause of death among college students. And 12% of college students reported suicidal thoughts during their time in college, according to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services.
Active Minds initially had plans to introduce the idea of having these resources printed on student IDs in 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented them from doing so.
“We’ve been making an effort to talk about it, but as far as our ability to formally discuss it with the president and board members, we haven’t had an open forum to be able to do it,” said Delaney Geib, president of Active Minds.
To Geib, these numbers could provide instant support to students in need.
“The fact that it’s there when people need it is the biggest benefit of all because finding that immediate relief anywhere is virtually impossible,” Geib said.
Being the president of the only organization dedicated to mental health on campus, Geib said she has lost the little confidence she had left in the University after its recent lack of action following a student death on campus.
With the rise of students struggling with mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, Geib believes the Carruth Center lacks the necessary funding and staff to provide sufficient support to those in need.
Two months ago, Geib applied for a session at the center after experiencing high anxiety and depression, but she was ultimately turned away.
Because she would be graduating this semester and is currently awaiting an acceptance letter from the WVU College of Law, the Carruth Center claimed they could not help her.
Instead, she was referred to a counselor outside the University where she’s still awaiting approval for her first session. It’s been two months.
What would have been a free resource for mental health counseling became a lengthy and expensive process, according to Geib.
“It was a very negative experience, and it hurts me to say that because we push the Carruth Center for all of our students and our members,” Geib said. “We didn’t even know how bad it was getting.”
Many students facing similar obstacles to Geib have reached out to her in a last-ditch effort to find support and mental health resources.
“I’ve had people email me on a variety of topics, and one of the first and foremost things that I do is give them the suicide hotline and give them a mental health hotline so that they have somebody,” Geib said. “I mean, if you’re emailing me, a student that is president of the only mental health organization on campus, you’re kind of looking for a last resort of somebody to talk to.”
In many cases, Geib said that these numbers have “tremendously benefited” students in need of support, further justifying to her the need for these resources to be printed on student IDs.
At this point in time, the University has yet to respond to Active Minds’ letter.
“In my mind, we’re [students] paying an arm and a leg for university tuition to further ourselves, and on top of that, we’re paying with our head too because we’re losing it,” Geib said. “Nothing is being done to reattach that arm and keep our head on straight.”