Content Disclaimer: This article contains mentions of suicide.
For the first time in about 14 years, UNC Counseling and Psychology Services had a waiting list for students who wanted ongoing individual counseling, said Avery Cook, associate and clinical director of CAPS.
Cook said that waitlist is a result of the increased mental health needs of students during the pandemic.
CAPS offers brief one-on-one therapy for students seeking support for “relatively well-defined issues that can be adequately addressed or resolved in a short period of time,” according to the CAPS website.
In response to the growing need for mental health resources on campus recently, CAPS announced a partnership with Uwill, a teletherapy service focused on student mental health and wellbeing, according to UNC Media Relations.
This collaboration comes about a month after the University announced several students on campus this semester and follows growing student criticism of CAPS support.
Waiting list reduction plan
Cook said the partnership with Uwill has helped eliminate the wait list for individual therapy students.
“Bringing Uwill on was really kind of an ongoing response to students saying we wanted more access to brief therapy and we wanted longer hours,” Cook said. “So there’s no waiting list for a student who is appropriate for brief therapy. They can really connect as soon as we meet them.”
Maddi Austin, a freshman journalism student and organizer of the Oct. 29 mental health protest outside the Wilson Library, said the University’s conversation about mental health should have started earlier.
“This isn’t the first time suicides have happened on campus,” Austin said. “And if nothing happens, it won’t be the last.”
Austin said the problem isn’t necessarily with CAPS’ waitlist reduction plan, but with the number of counselors available and the number of students they’re able to help. They said CAPS should be able to provide services to every student on campus.
“I’ve even heard stories of people turning away from CAPS,” Austin said. “Because they had previous therapy or because their issues were long-term and cannot be resolved soon enough.”
Media Relations said in a statement to the Daily Tar Heel that it is industry best practice to refer students who have a longer history of psychological needs to an outside provider who can help with further care. long duration. The practice allows for more consistent and consistent support for students, the statement said.
First-year psychology major Yakob Lemma said he helped Austin during the Oct. 29 protest.
Lemma said he hopes the University will devote more resources to diverse staffing and staff training at CAPS.
“If our campus hasn’t taken the time to see if our students feel supported by the University, that shows where the problem really lies,” he said.
CAPS has been criticized by students for its lack of diversity in the past. In March, students started a petition calling for more AAPI credential advisors because CAPS did not have any. Over the years, students have requested more therapists of color, and in September 2020, CAPS launched the Multicultural Health Program to serve Black, Indigenous, and other students of color.
A few weeks ago, Austin started a petition currently calling for more funding for CAPS which garnered over 1,100 signatures.
Need of the community
UNC is hosting a Mental Health Summit on Nov. 15, led by Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, chair of the School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry.
CAPS representatives will be present at the Mental Health Summit with parents, students, faculty and staff, she said.
Meltzer-Brody said the summit will bring together diverse voices and thought leaders to discuss actions the University has already taken and to build consensus on next steps in addressing mental health on campus.
The number of college-aged people suffering from anxiety and depression has increased three to four times since the start of the pandemic, she said.
“It’s a staggering increase,” Meltzer-Brody said. “And so what campuses need to do is they really need to be able to adapt and shift to meet the needs of today, not 2019.”
Meltzer-Brody said when UNC returned to in-person classes, a large amount of resources were devoted to testing and vaccinations. The national mental health crisis is the next wave of community impact from the pandemic, she said.
“So what we see on campus is really a microcosm of what we see statewide and what we see nationally,” Meltzer-Brody said. “And I think everyone really has an idea of the total impact of that.”
Cook also said mental health is a much bigger issue than CAPS.
“Mental health right now is not an issue at UNC, it’s not an issue at CAPS, it’s an issue, sort of across the country and across the world,” said Cook.
Meltzer-Brody said she believes as UNC moves forward, mental health should be a priority.
“I am very encouraged that the Chancellor has made this a top priority. And I think that will make sense as we move forward,” Meltzer-Brody said.
Austin said they plan to attend the Mental Health Summit to propose more on-campus funding for CAPS and focus on providing long-term care rather than just brief therapy for all students. .
“CAPS is doing the best it can with the funding it has,” Austin said. “Unfortunately, it’s not much.”
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