As of last week, Counseling Services is offering services to faculty and staff at SIUE completely free of charge
Director of Counseling Services Courtney Boddie said while he wanted to offer this option from the beginning, student access was the top priority.
“I’ve always wanted to be a center that provided to faculty and staff as well as students, but I recognize that there are challenges. Besides, students pay for it [through student fees], so they deserve it first,” Boddie said.
Assistant Chair of Applied Communications Studies Josie DeGroot said she was happy to see Counseling Services begin to provide care to faculty and staff. DeGroot’s studies focus on grieving and loss, and she said that some form of counseling can be beneficial to anyone.
“With the COVID crisis, we’re all dealing with loss. We’ve lost normalcy, and social life, and some productivity, and confidence in the government and a feeling of safety,” DeGroot said. “We’re dealing with a lot of loss, and having someone who can help work through that can be incredibly important.”
This time has been especially stressful for faculty and staff, according to Faculty Union President Mark Poepsel. Poepsel said there has been a lot more work for faculty and staff due to the pandemic.
“Everybody seems to have critiques for how faculty should work, and we’re just trying to move forward and keep the university going,” Poepsel said. “I’m sure there were a lot of faculty members who wanted this. Practically everything in our lives has been upended.”
Black Faculty and Staff Association President J.T. Snipes said the stress of this year certainly helped push to make Counseling Services more available.
“I don’t remember the exact date, but I believe it was shortly after Jacob Blake’s killing that there was a renewed focus on the support for faculty and staff as well as students,” Snipes said. “After that, the Chancellor talked with Dr. Boddie about how to make it happen.”
Keeping a balance between counseling for students and counseling for faculty and staff is one of the biggest challenges, according to Boddie.
“There was such a demand for students to have [counseling] that it felt wrong to give this thing to faculty, so I put it on the shelf. When the pandemic started, I started getting questions about what we provided and what we could provide,” Boddie said. “It hasn’t stopped being the case that we prioritize students first, but we want it to be available for faculty and staff.”
Boddie said these services are being offered for free, which came as a great relief to Snipes, who said mental health is something everyone should check in on regularly. Snipes also said he has actually used the newly available Counseling Services already, and was glad the counselor hired was one with a diverse background.
“In the same way we keep an eye on our physical health, we need to do so for our minds as well. [The university already provides] an annual medical checkup, and I’m trying to save money, and that can be a huge investment,” Snipes said. “I scheduled and met with her last week, and it was good. Dr. Boddie [was thinking of the Black faculty and staff when he] searched for a practitioner that was culturally informed in their counseling. She knows Black folks, and she is Black, so I think that matters in terms of a counseling situation. It doesn’t mean she will inherently click with everyone, but it’s important for [a counselor] to be culturally informed about their practices.”
For more information, visit the Counseling Services website.