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JCCC Updates: JCCC’s counselors help students navigate college and support mental health

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By Emma Swinney

Generation Z – those born between 1997-2012 – reports much higher rates of mental health issues than previous generations. Citing current events, specifically mass shootings, global warming, and the political climate, healthcare professionals agree that Gen Z shares “collective trauma,” exacerbated by the COVID-19 global pandemic. A 2022 survey completed by Harmony Healthcare IT, a firm that works with health data, found 42% of adults ages 18-24 were diagnosed with a mental health condition.

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen incoming students have a much higher need for mental health support, and they expect to find counseling services on campus. Approximately 1 in 3 incoming students has a mental health diagnosis,” said Alex Wells, JCCC’s Assistant Dean of Counseling and New Student Retention. At JCCC, students receive personalized support from the Academic Advising and Counseling program at no cost. The counselors at JCCC prepare students to navigate mental health challenges to succeed in college and beyond.

JCCC’s counselors serve as both academic advisors and personal counselors. They evaluate each student holistically to ensure they are able to thrive in all aspects of student life. JCCC credit students are assigned a counselor who is knowledgeable in their field of study. They work with students to create academic plans, review degree progress, and prepare for and explore careers. There are six different counselor areas of interest: business, creative arts, education, healthcare, industrial technology, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), and education, humanities, legal studies and social science.

Counselors at JCCC evaluate students holistically to ensure they thrive in all aspects of student life.

Leslie D., a JCCC student studying marketing, said, “The Counseling Center is very, very helpful and has always made sure I am on the path to my goals. My counselor is helping me prepare to transfer to UMKC for my bachelor’s degree. I feel supported and excited for my future career.”

Gage P., a JCCC student studying microbiology, shares similar thoughts. He said, “I have gone to the Counseling Center many times and they’ve always been very helpful. My counselor helped create a schedule that works for me, advised me on the best classes to take, and set me up for success at JCCC.”

For students who need additional support, JCCC partners with Johnson County Mental Health and has a licensed clinician offices on campus daily. Students struggling with substance abuse issues, depression and anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, domestic violence, sexual assault or suicidal thoughts are often referred to the short-term JCCC Student Assistance Program, for up to five free counseling sessions or other support.

Over the next few years, students and community members can expect to see JCCC expanding mental health services on campus. In July of 2023, JCCC was awarded a Garett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Funds from this three-year grant will expand training for faculty and staff, establish a community advisory board to develop strategies to support mental health interventions and suicide prevention, and strengthen existing initiatives that support student mental health education, assessment and programming.

This increase in mental health challenges among Gen Z affects the workforce as well. In 2024, Gen Z has officially surpassed the number of Baby Boomers – people born between 1946-1964 – in the workforce. By 2025, 1 in 4 people in the workforce will be a member of Generation Z. It is important for prospective employers and older generations in the workforce to recognize the unique life experiences of their Gen Z coworkers and the vital role mental health plays in personal success.

“The counseling center at JCCC plays a pivotal role in student success,” said Alex Wells. “We know students need more than just a list of courses to take. Our holistic approach ensures students have the greatest chance of success for whatever their educational or career goals may be.”

Visit JCCC’s website for additional details about the Student Assistance Program and the personal counseling services available to JCCC students.