Many colleges have counseling centers that are out of the way or in their own building, making it very clear why you’re visiting. For students already wary of receiving mental health support, the possibility of being seen there may make them less likely to go. The Wall Street Journal reports that colleges like Virginia Tech, Montana State University and the University of Arkansas have adopted a simple yet brilliant solution to reducing the stigma around seeking help: putting counseling centers in places where students normally go anyway, like near the office of the dean of students or the gym.
Virginia Tech placed “satellite counseling centers” next to dorms and a Starbucks (among other places) so students can come and go without anyone knowing why, WSJ reports. Additionally, these centers have separate entrances to ensure students don’t run into their peers.
“We were driven by the wish to reach out to populations where stigma might have made it difficult for people to be comfortable entering the center,” Christopher Flynn, director of the Thomas E. Cook Counseling Center at Virginia Tech, told WSJ.
Stigma around mental health can affect everyone. But as WSJ writer Melissa Korn points out, mental health experts say first-year students—who are often worried about what their new classmates will think of them—and students from “certain cultural backgrounds, particularly in parts of Asia and the Middle East” may be less inclined than others to seek counseling.
If something as simple as moving counseling services to a different part of campus could help reduce stigma and encourage people to get help if they need it, hopefully other colleges can learn from this strategy.
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