GPSA senators express importance of mental health for graduate students

All graduate students have insurance; mental health issues increasing among population



The Washington State Association represents 150,000 students from 15 college campuses, said Zack Turner, WSA executive director.

JENAE LAXSON, Evergreen roots editor

GPSA senators discussed the importance of mental health education and resources available to graduate students during a meeting Monday night.

Graduate students believe there is a stigma surrounding their responses to mental health, said Marie Gray, health promotion liaison for Cougar Health Services.

Gray works primarily with graduate students. She said mental health issues are increasing, especially COVID-19-related, for this population of students.

“There is the concept that graduate students should just power through instead of seeking services,” she said.

WSU evaluated three groups in an assessment to determine how many students use on-campus mental health services, she said. These groups were domestic graduate students, international graduate students and undergraduate students. 

Graduate students are more likely to use mental and physical health services available on campus than any other student group, she said. 

Gray said all graduate students have insurance but need to be more informed about it.

Gray said nine percent of graduate students said they understand their health insurance, but 53 percent do not. About 96 percent of graduate students are not aware of the services provided or are only aware of a few services, Gray said. 

Graduate students can receive free healthcare with their insurance at WSU Cougar Health Services, she said.

The Access Center will revise its guidelines to reduce the stigma graduate students feel about their mental health, Gray said.

Educational flyers describing the signs of a distressed student will be released to faculty and staff in spring, she said.

A representative from the Washington State Association also spoke to GPSA senators.

The WSA was founded in 1982 by members of WSU, Western Washington University and University of Washington, said Zack Turner, executive director of the Washington Student Association.

The organization represents 150,000 students from 15 college campuses. It hosts the only legislative liaison program in the country, Turner said.

It is funded almost entirely by students and each fully enrolled student pays $1.05, he said. The money is used to advocate for and support students in the legislation.

The organization provides students with on-campus workshops, training and personal development, Turner said.

WSA recently helped pass the Student Loan Bill, he said, which protects graduate students from having their credentials revoked because of outstanding student loans.

 WSA has two open positions, and one is available to WSU students, Turner said.