Health Center

The University Health Center on Aug. 28, 2021, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

The start of a new semester at the University of Georgia brings not only the excitement of school starting up again, but also increased levels of stress.

The Red & Black has compiled a brief list of some of the mental health resources that UGA and Athens offer to students to help ensure this remains a priority as the semester begins.

UGA has a wide variety of programs and resources available to cater to students’ various needs. While the large pool of resources is crucial to serving such a large student body, this can be overwhelming for the student. The first step is knowing where to start.

Stan Jackson, assistant to the vice president for student affairs, working in conjunction with several colleagues in Student Care and Outreach, Counseling and Psychiatric Services and Health Promotion, described UGA’s mental health resources as a network of care.

“They’re all connected and staff are able to connect students with the most appropriate resource for their needs,” Jackson said in an email to The Red & Black.

It is suggested, however, that when looking for a starting point, Counseling and Psychiatric Services is the best place to begin, and setting up an appointment is easy.

“I called through the health center and then told them that I wanted to schedule an appointment through CAPS, and then you get put on the CAPS hotline,” said Daniela Montero, a sophomore who used CAPS this past summer.

Montero said you begin with an assessment meeting, which can be done either in person or virtually. After that, the program will connect you with the correct person and resources for your needs.

There are new policies being initiated this semester intended to make CAPS even more accessible to students.

Jackson said there are now no out-of-pocket costs for most services, so long as the student has paid the health fee and billed insurance. There are also no longer session limits, and CAPS now has 24/7 support available through their hotline 706-542-2273. 

“They will be able to speak to a counselor directly. No matter the reason for the call, support is available around the clock,” Jackson said in an email to The Red & Black regarding the recently enhanced hotline. “And, of course, all calls are private and confidential.”

While UGA has many programs in addition to CAPS, it serves as a sort of hub, reaching out on behalf of students and connecting them to the appropriate program according to their needs.

“Through initiatives like the Mental Health Initiative and the Student Affairs Well-being and Success Initiative, the university continues to enhance cross-campus collaboration and coordinate support for students,” Jackson said.

Outside of UGA, Athens has many of its own mental health centers with a wide variety of focuses and specializations. Among these are LifeStance Health, Advantage Behavioral Health Systems and a government-run program, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

One program, though, has gained acclaim among students for both its non-clinical environment and focus on using music to aid in therapy. Nuçi’s Space is a non-profit organization located at 396 Oconee St. that caters specifically toward musicians, though they emphasize their help is available to anyone.

“Nuçi’s primary mission is suicide prevention, and there’s a sort of hierarchy of harm that we seek to ameliorate beyond that. We do referrals, we have meetings here for substance abuse/disorder, 12-step meetings, suicide survivors meetings here,” said Patrick Ferguson, the public relations and communications coordinator for Nuçi’s Space.

Born out of this mission is a wide variety of systems of support. This could manifest in different ways, but most of Nuçi’s Space’s resources go into their counseling and therapy services.

“Our main program is our mental health, mainly with counseling. We have a partner with Athens Family Cоunseling here in Athens, and they have like 15-20 therapists and psychologists that assist our clients. We also have a psychiatrist that’s a partner with us, his name is Dr. Orr,” said Debbie Watson, the youth program coordinator and development director for Nuçi’s Space when asked about their programs.

Nuçi’s Space began when Andre Nuçi Phillips, an Athens musician, died by suicide, and his mother created the organization in the hopes that no mother would have to endure what she did. 

Through providing practice rooms and equipment for artists in Athens, Nuçi’s Space began to create a safe space for musicians to seek help dealing with the pressures of the profession without feeling as if they were at a doctor’s office, Watson said.

It has now expanded in a massive way, offering financial aid, insurance help, physical health needs, and more, Watson said. They even currently partner with the UGA medical school to provide medical services and have a volunteer and intern program in place that Watson herself was part of.

Additionally, adding to the “network of care” Jackson described, Nuçi’s Space has connections throughout Athens.

Watson said that Lesley Cobbs, the counseling advocate for Nuçi’s Space, has a working relationship with UGA’s mental health resources.

Whether Nuçi’s Space, CAPS or one of the other resources Athens and UGA possess is the right fit, the most important thing is to reach out for help.

“When it comes to your health and well-being, know that you have the support you need, any time, any place,” Jackson said. “Whether you are on campus, studying from home or studying abroad, UGA is here for you.”

Even if you are uncertain of where to go or what help these resources can offer you, there will always be someone to point you in the right direction.

“I would definitely say reach out. If you end up not liking it or it’s not your thing, you don’t have to keep going,” Montero said. “But it might be more helpful than you think, just reaching out and getting help with whatever you need.”