Taking Care of Yourself: Health care on campus


Taking care of yourself, both physically and mentally, will be one of the many expenses you face in college. Find out early on what your school has to offer.

Your first stop should be the on-campus health center, which will typically offer cheap or free services to students. They tend to have nurses on staff as well as doctors who rotate through and with whom you can make appointments. For more serious issues, the health center may send you to a nearby hospital, but for smaller matters, especially sexual health issues like gynecological exams and STI screenings, it’s an indispensible resource. Centers will usually offer good deals on birth control if you have a prescription, and many dispense low-cost or free condoms, no questions asked.

Definitely ask what services are offered at the health center. Some schools provide uncommon perks like free acupressure sessions, which can be very helpful during finals.

Some larger schools are affiliated with hospitals, which may offer discounted or free services to uninsured or low-income people (for example, Yale-New Haven Hospital has a free clinic for uninsured individuals, and you don’t even have to be a Yale student to get treated there). Many schools require students to have insurance, so if you’re not covered by a parent’s plan, you’ll have to sign up. In some cases, schools will offer to insure you for free if you’re on financial aid. While these plans won’t provide the greatest coverage in the world, they will cover basic visits to the health center during the school year and discounted rates for prescriptions and visits to off-campus doctors during the rest of the year.

Mental health services are an integral part of any school’s health offerings. Most schools offer a limited number of free visits and can make referrals to outside therapists for continued treatment. You may find that a handful of psychologists and/or psychiatrists affiliated with your college, and if you find one you like, you can often stick with him or her for a number of visits. If your campus has a graduate school, you may be offered treatment from Ph.D. candidates who, in addition to being able to listen, can often relate directly to your experiences.

If one exists on your campus, an office of behavioral health can be a great resource. The staff can assist you in getting off-campus status and dealing with the stress of being overburdened with work and financial issues, or with the everyday stresses of college life. Health services departments are generally less concerned with bureaucratic protocol than other branches of the college administration. The people who work there will generally want to help you and may even fight to give you the best service they can.

Anyone who thinks they may benefit from speaking with a mental health professional should definitely seek out services on campus, where there is likely to be very little stigma surrounding mental health issues. In fact, more and more students are taking advantage of the ability to talk to a professional. According to a recent article in USA Today, for example, demand for mental health services increased by 61 percent from 2000 to 2005 at the University of California-Davis. If you feel overloaded with the weight of your problems, financial or otherwise, meeting with a counselor can help.

Photo courtesy of rodrigo senna

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