Opinion: Can OSU Handle the Growing Student Mental Health Crisis?

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Alex Ozeran

The entrance to Snell Hall on OSU campus on September 27th. While easy to locate, people like OSU graduate, Sarah Ermer, have proclaimed that they, “Didn’t have very much luck at all” when seeking help from CAPS in the past.

Leah Kahn, Columnist

Editor’s Note: This column does not represent the opinion of The Daily Barometer. This column reflects the personal opinions of the writer.

Counseling and Psychological Services at Oregon State are improving, but still have a long way to go. 

Ever tried to schedule an appointment with CAPS and not been able to get in? Well, you’re not alone.  

In the fall of 2021, I was studying abroad in Spain. The program and school I was going through offered little support and little help, on top of that my roommates were not kind people and I was in a very difficult situation. I tried to get an appointment with CAPS but they were booked. I was in a different time zone so it was hard to call them during normal operating hours. I felt trapped and alone.

Shouldn’t OSU, who had sent me abroad, be able to support my mental health while I studied in another country? 

CAPS is aware of the scheduling shortage and lack of counselors to serve the entire student population, and is making efforts to better serve the student population. But will it be enough? CAPS can only do so much with the funding they’re given. 

Perhaps the real culprit is OSU and the funds it gives to CAPS to support the mental health of students. Clearly it’s not enough. OSU puts a lot of emphasis on supporting student’s mental health, but they should put their money where their words are.

“I went to CAPS and wasn’t able to get in,” said OSU junior Ezra Dahl.

Sound familiar? It’s no secret that the later you wait in the term the harder it is to schedule a counseling appointment with CAPS.  

So, is CAPS equipped to handle the needs of all the OSU students this term? It seems we’ll have  to wait and see. There will probably still be long wait times for appointments, and you may still  experience frustration trying to get more than an initial appointment.

Sarah Ermer, a recent graduate student from OSU, shared her frustrations when in 2018 she tried  to access CAPS.

“I didn’t have very much luck at all,” Ermer said. “I got the initial intake interview but then they  didn’t have any availability for me.” 

Sydney Tag, a second year student and resident assistant, shared a similar story.

I was able to  get an appointment, but it took me about three to four months to get off of the waitlist,” Tag said.  

Tag also shared that when one of her friends saw how much work she had to put in to get off that  waitlist and actually schedule an appointment, that friend didn’t even want to attempt it. 

And with the largest student body Oregon State has ever seen, is CAPS equipped to handle the  growing mental health needs of all the students? 

“There’s a mental health crisis in our country right now,” said Ian Kellem, the executive director of CAPS. “The pandemic has only  worsened that, but this was happening long before the pandemic…We’re really at a place where many students are feeling like they need a lot of support and so we are doing our best to be responsive to that and we could always do better.” 

One way CAPS is trying to better support students this year is through the app My Student Support Program. My SSP allows students to talk to a counselor from the phone, for no additional cost, anytime, and anywhere.  

“You don’t have to pre-schedule anything,” Kellems said. “If you’re feeling anxious at 2 a.m., you can open up the app and chat with a counselor…One of the silver linings of the pandemic is teletherapy.” 

This app may ease the frustration of many students who find CAPS doesn’t have the capacity to  accommodate their needs. For more information about the app go to: Beav.es/anytimeanywhere.  

Of course, the question remains of whether teletherapy, such as the app offers, can really replace  in person appointments with a counselor.  

Thankfully, if you are ever in crisis, CAPS will see you the same day.

CAPS is really focusing this year on providing short term support to students through short term individual counseling, more group therapy sessions, single session clinics, more  psychoeducational resources on their website, and workshops.  

But for those students looking for long term support, CAPS has provided a database of Oregon  Based Therapists on the CAPS website that students can search through to find a therapist that  fits their needs.  

But the resources CAPS  provides this year are better than they’ve ever been, and I’m hopeful for their future.  

Here are some resources you can go to in addition to CAPS: Student Health Services, The  Student Care Team which helps struggling students connect with the resources they need, The  Academic Support Center which can help you with things like time management, the Basic Needs Center can help you get housing and food, OSU Assist will help students experiencing mental  health crisis in residence halls, without requiring the presence of law enforcement, Wellness Coaching through Recreation Sports, and the cultural centers across campus. 

For more information about CAPS and the services they provide go to:  

https://counseling.oregonstate.edu/