The University of California Student Association (UCSA) has selected to address mental health as the subject for its next two-year campaign during its 17th annual UC Student Congress last weekend in Irvine.
UCSA, a UC-wide student advocacy organization governed by student officers from each campus, lobbies for legislation concerning UC affordability, accessibility and quality. Each year, the UCSA hosts a congress for UC students to discuss ideas for a specific campaign to endorse. Congress attendees selected #LetsTalk, a mental health awareness campaign that seeks to improve the mental health climate at each UC campus.
According to fourth-year economics and sociology double major Siavash Zohoori, who began #LetsTalk about three months ago, the campaign’s goals are to expand “one-on-one care” and “outreach to vulnerable populations” in mental health services across the UC system.
“The ultimate goal is to maintain the mental health of our campuses and to offer adequate care,” Zohoori said.
Zohoori said in order to achieve these goals, the campaign must work toward improving diversity, outreach and accessibility. These three areas are “lacking” in UCSB’s Counseling and Psychological Services (C.A.P.S.) program, according to Zohoori.
“We noticed that our C.A.P.S., like many other counseling services at the UCs, lacks in diverse staff representing our student body,” Zohoori said. “They lack in space and accessibility, and they lack in outreach. So, we came up with this campaign that would focus on those three things.”
Associated Students External Vice President for Statewide Affairs (EVPSA), UCSA Undergraduate Committee Chair and fourth-year sociology and black studies double major Mohsin Mirza said securing more funding for mental health services into the UC budget is key to the mental health awareness campaign.
“Students are funding the most essential mental health services at our campuses,” Mirza said in an email. “It’s time for the UC and the state to pay their fair share.”
A.S. On-Campus Senator and second-year art history student Lacy Wright said one of the many issues surrounding mental health treatment on UC campuses is the unattractive “stigma” associated with therapy.
“Students often suffer from really high anxiety, depression and so many other clinical illnesses that they’re not getting tested for because there’s just so much fear of walking into C.A.P.S.,” Wright said. “I’ve had to walk people in because they were too afraid to go alone.”
According to Wright, approximately 30 percent of students have anxiety or depression which can affect their ability to focus on their education.
“We are an institution of academics,” Wright said. “The point is to graduate. You can’t do that if you’re suffering from any sort of mental illness or stress.”
Mirza said the UC campuses’ mental health services reflect the system’s overall failure to care for its students.
“The UC has a responsibility to take care of its students,” Mirza said in an email. “The current state of the mental health system represents a failure of that responsibility.”