The University of Georgia offers many resources for students with mental health issues, the most renowned of which being Counseling and Psychiatric Services. While CAPS provides integral and necessary services to students by treating their mental health problems through therapy and medication, the session limit and emphasis on solution-based therapy forces many students to leave the services with lingering mental illnesses and fails to provide adequate services to many others.
The college environment promotes many factors that contribute to mental illnesses. According to a 2012 study based on online interviews conducted by Pamela Aselton, sources of stress include roommate issues, academic problems, financial concerns and pressure from family. The study found that students cope through creating support systems and participating in talk therapy, which CAPS focuses on with their therapeutic services.
While talk therapy gives students some level of support, talk therapy and limited sessions can hurt students as much as they help them. According to The Efficacy and Effectiveness of Psychological Treatments by Dr. John Hunsley in 2013, a person with severe depression begins to improve after 21 individual sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy. According to a CAPS therapist, Dr. Bowles, people participating in therapy are allowed 10 therapy sessions before they’re referred to a case manager or social worker to find other options.
A student might be less likely to go to therapy when they have fewer sessions available because they wait for a mental health crisis, the same one that one might wait for a boss battle in a video game before using an item. There’s always the possibility of a bigger boss battle to use the item on, just as students always have the possibility of a more severe mental health crisis to use their limited sessions on.
The services that CAPS provide save lives and so should receive more resources and funding to treat students and faculty properly. CAPS struggled to balance its supply of counselors with the demand of students since at least 2014, and their high turnover rate reflects their poor treatment. Without counseling and psychiatric services, students couldn’t complete their degrees or function properly.
Solution-focused sessions and session caps make sense in an environment where mental health programming is underfunded and understaffed. Administration at the University of Georgia needs to prioritize mental health and give counselors and psychiatrists the resources and staff needed to create a space where people with mental illnesses can treat their issues in a long-term, effective manner.
Anyone in any environment can face situations that damage their mental health, and anyone in any environment can face mental illnesses at equal severity, regardless of privilege or academic success. The University of Georgia must prioritize its students’ health in order to create a safer environment by funding CAPS and other counseling services enough to provide long-term therapy that many students so desperately need.
Healing happens one session at a time, and mental health represents a marathon, not a race. To support students, support more therapy sessions and more funding for CAPS.