MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University students are urging officials to improve mental health services following the death of a student and related response.
A rally took place Thursday outside of the Mountainlair over concerns the Carruth Center is not doing enough to provide students with counseling and other treatment options.
The call for action came almost two weeks after the death of Benjamin Pravecek, a 20-year-old student from Harpers Ferry who died after falling from a parking garage.
“They all really wanted to see a change at WVU, especially with their mental services in light of the passing of Benjamin Pravecek,” said Nicolette Rich, who participated in the rally with classmates.
“My friend witnessed the suicide and wanted to go to the Carruth Center and talk about it. They turned him away and told him his issue wasn’t as important as other people’s issue.”
Students have also shared concerns on social media about Carruth Center staff refusing services to students.
Corey Farris, the institution’s dean of students, told MetroNews affiliate WAJR-AM the Carruth Center is designed to provide short-term care options for students. He added students may also misunderstand a referral recommendation as a refusal.
“Sometimes, students perceive us getting them help from a different person as turning them away when in reality we’ve seen them,” he said. “We’ll continue to see them until they get engaged with that counselor that can help them or that psychiatrist, but the goal is to get them the best help possible.”
Last October, West Virginia University President Gordon Gee noted in his State of the University address the possible effects of the coronavirus pandemic on mental health. Officials began to increase their efforts to handle an increase in calls from students and broaden the Carruth Center’s services.
“We’ve added six or seven members counselors to our staff,” Farris said. “We’ve also been working on — and will launch it this summer — Healthy Minds University, where we’re going to add an additional layer of support for our students.”