Disclaimer: We, students at the EVPSA office, encourage and support all students in need of psychological services to seek help, and support others through referrals, with CAPS. If you, or someone you know, are in need of counseling, call CAPS at 805.893.4411.
It is the responsibility of the university not only to educate its students, but also to foster an environment that ensures its students can succeed. Across the UC system and here at UCSB, the university’s insufficient support for student mental health services makes this far from a reality. According to the American College Health Association, 30 percent of college students report being too depressed to function. One in five college students will be diagnosed with depression during their undergraduate career. For the past three years, the number of new students seen by UCSB’s Counseling And Psychological Services (C.A.P.S.) has increased by an average of 26 percent. While C.A.P.S. has expanded and continues to support an increasing number of students, the amount of funding provided to our mental health services at UCSB does not meet the needs of our student body. This disconnect between C.A.P.S.’s needs and its capacity has been damaging.
Students have expressed dissatisfaction in the wait times for appointments. Clinicians are not provided adequate space and room accommodations. In a setting where we want to promote racial and gender equity, our counseling staff does not adequately reflect the diversity of our student body. Furthermore, the culture of our campus is not yet one that entirely fosters mental health.
“#HowAreYou: A Call to Reform Student Mental Health Services” is a UC Student Association (UCSA) campaign working to improve the accessibility, diversity and outreach in mental health services at each UC. UCSA has created an expansive rubric in order to grade mental health services on each campus. The rubric measures certain aspects of our counseling services, such as wait times, the trend in intake appointments, the diversity of clinicians, Full Time Equivalent (FTE)-to-student ratio, etc. in order to diagnose areas in which C.A.P.S. can improve. As a result of this study, UCSA awarded UCSB’s C.A.P.S. a grade of C+.
This grade is not to criticize C.A.P.S. or C.A.P.S. Staff, who have worked innovatively to improve services with the limited resources they have, but rather to bring to light the damage that comes when such vital student resources are allowed to be under resourced. We hope that this serves as a call to action, both for the community to be more aware of the services and its necessary changes and for UCSB administration to do more about improving this vital service on campus.
UCSB’s C.A.P.S. excels as they allow students to be seen the same day that they come and express they need help. Other campuses have same day appointments, but only for students exhibiting signs of crisis, and some have no kinds of same day appointments at all. These walk-in appointments are a unique innovation — started at UCSB — that maximize the potential of our clinical staff while also setting our campus up to be one that provides resources on a needs basis. However, this does not support students who require long-term care, because follow-up appointments must still be scheduled weeks in advance.
UCSB also leads in counseling services, compared to the other UCs, with our mental health peer program, in which students work with C.A.P.S. to provide resources to others in need. C.A.P.S. has excelled in preventing suicide with our #SaySomething campaign, and has made great strides in supporting our black students in response to a series of demands made by the Black Student Union in 2013.
These are the things that we must do to ensure that students will receive adequate mental health services:
1. The hiring of more diverse and culturally competent clinicians:
National trends indicate that people of color use mental health services at a lower rate than their white counterparts. African Americans and Chican@/Latin@ Americans used mental health services at about one half the rate of Caucasian Americans in the past year. In the Asian/Pacific Islander (API) community, that rate shrank to one third. Studies have shown that matching the race and sex of the therapist to that of the client increases the acceptability and effectiveness of treatment services. As a Hispanic Serving Institution, UCSB should not be this drastically lacking Hispanic serving clinicians. Thus, the hiring of API, Chican@/Latin@, South Asian, Middle Eastern and North African serving clinicians is a must.
2. The expansion and improvement of the C.A.P.S. building:
Accessibility and comfort are necessary for fostering an environment that supports mental health. Our current facility is struggling for space. With a new state of the art facility at UCSB, students will be able to receive care with more comfort and convenience. Climate controlled, spacious and confidential spaces have proven to help students in therapy.
3. The integration of mental health services in academic and student life:
Placing a therapist in the residence halls provides more benefits than just the ease in accessibility. When therapists are in the residence halls, it contributes to an environment in which the residents understand that support is around them and accessible to them when they need it. For this reason, therapists should be placed wherever there is a high density of students, including residence halls, university apartments and areas on campus where stigma around mental health can be greater, like the S.T.E.M. buildings.
The university should be a place where students thrive, not just endure. The changes we are calling for will allow us to address long wait times and short staffing and can create an environment on campus where we can truly care for all of us, especially those populations that are most vulnerable. This past summer, a group of UC students who were tired of week-long waiting times for their friends, frustrated with C.A.P.S. centers that didn’t have therapists that came from their communities and who believed deeply in the need to create a culture of compassion launched the #HowAreYou campaign. As students, we made improving our mental health services our priority; it’s time our administration did the same.
Siavash Zohoori, Mental Health Coordinator
Lillian Cain, Policy Analyst
Mohsin Mirza, External Vice President of Statewide Affairs
Anumita Kaur, Campus Organizing Director