With the arrival of November, the stress of midterms is just dying down as finals week and term assignment deadlines already start lurking around the corner. It is hard enough for college students not to get caught up in the challenge of balancing several responsibilities at once, and even harder to ask for professional help when they are struggling.
But even more disappointing is when you’ve come to terms with the idea that it’s time to reach out for professional help in the form of counseling only to hear you will be put on a waitlist, because the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS, has more students seeking counseling than therapists available.
This is not an issue specific to La Verne. However, college students who reach out for services, wherever they are, should be able to receive them.
One in every four people ages 18-25 has a diagnosable mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Students’ efforts to overcome stigma and help themselves should not be greeted with “take a number,” and CAPS should be equipped to serve however many ULV students require these services.
For La Verne students, CAPS is an alternative to paying out of pocket for the high cost of psychological help, as not many students can afford such a price tag.
The process of getting counseling and psychological services should not become another “trigger,” or driver of financial anxiety. It should be a relief in times of distress.
In addition, a lack of mental health diagnosis and treatment can lead to not only increased drop-out rates, but even fatal consequences in the long run. According to a 2015 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the second leading cause of death between 15-24 year olds is suicide, with an approximate 5,500 deaths per year.
While the issue of stigma plays role in preventing early detection of mental health issues – with 40 percent of students with diagnosable mental health conditions not seeking help, according to NAMI – ULV needs to provide for those students who overcome such stigma.
We can do better as a University. Early treatment can significantly increase effectiveness of treatment and prevention of persistent mental illness, and reduce the need for prolonged treatment.
As a Hispanic-serving institution that prides itself on diversity and inclusivity, we need to understand that our majority minority population – in particular our Latino and black students – seek needed mental health service at half the rate of Caucasian Americans, according to NAMI.
Equipping CAPS to assist them when they do seek help is an obligation not only to support their education, but to reduce their chances of dropping out. And it could improve the overall well-being of the University.
In today’s tumultuous political and social climate, anxiety is running high. The University should not delay in the needed expansion of psychological help to students. Instead officials should invest in more therapists and reevaluate mental health as a priority.
The University has an obligation to keep its promise to provide safe spaces and professional treatment, and reinforce its commitment to not turn away students when they are most vulnerable.