An inside look into USU CAPS

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USU’s Counseling and Psychological Services is a service that provides help to students who suffer with depression and other mental illnesses.

Recently, USU students approved a mental health bill, which will allow for the CAPS to hire two new therapists to work in CAPs and ease the caseload that is on the staff now.

The demand for therapeutic and psychological services at USU has cause for a long wait list at CAPS, with some students waiting over a month to receive therapy and treatment. CAPS also only has a staff of seven full-time employees, one half-time employee and four staff members.

The mental health bill will raise the number of full time employee to nine, and provide a traveling therapist to give support to students at USU’s satellite schools.

Dr. David Bush, a physiologist at CAPS, said the expansion of staff will help reduce the waitlist.

“If you consider that a psychologist can have on average 30 clients other caseload, there’s 60 more students a week that we can see more quickly and that should help us reduce the waitlist,” he said.

Bush said CAPS currently provides services to around 1200 students, three times as many students then when he started at USU 28 years ago. Next year, he expects CAPS will be providing services to over 1500 students.

CAPS sometimes processes 30 to 40 new students who request services each week; according to Bush around 25 percent to 30 percent of those students are referred to other services like Marriage and Family Services or the Student Health Center.

“It’s really exciting that we’re seeing that there is a challenge and more students need our help that we can provide an hour and that we’re putting more resources towards that problem so that we can better serve and reduce the wait list and expand our services,” Bush said.

Bush said there is concern that hiring of more staff will encourage more students to come in to receive services.

“(We can just) keep coming up with more effective strategies to serve as many students as possible, but at some point you just have to accept your limitations and say this is how much that we can do,” he said.

Besides personal therapy, CAPS provides a variety of programs and workshops to provide support and prevent mental illness. Bush said, more than 50 percent of what is done at CAPS is that of workshops, group processes and interventions designed to help students succeed emotionally in life and prevent and cope with mental illness.

The programs are sometimes well attended with a dozen or so students in attendance; however, some workshops only get around two or three attendees.  

Bush said, “My only frustration is I think we have good materials, but these events aren’t always well attended… it’s hard to find time but what troubles me is that we don’t get the students (who need the services) and we can’t get them in for 45 minutes. These are the people that we can really help. The greatest struggle is connecting the service to those who might need it.”

CAPS offers workshops in resilience and grit, sleep hygiene, healthy relationships, effective communication, understanding feelings, dealing with depression, stress management and more. These programs are meant to help prevent mental illness or mitigate the impact of things like major depression.

Many students are unable to come and receive services, counseling and workshops because they feel like they have lack of time. However, there are others that are unaware of the services CAPS offers.

Charles Bentley, a psychologist at CAPS and the program outreach coordinator, said he’s not sure why more students know about what CAPS offers.

“With orientation, with SOAR, we are well represented and we give good information,” he said.

During orientations, he said, students are bombarded with a lot of information and forget a lot of things, especially when those things aren’t relevant to them at the time.

“We might not pay attention to mental health resources until we need them, then it’s too late,” he said.

According to data gathered by CAPS in 2014,  26 percent of the students CAPS provide services to are freshman, 24percent are sophomores, 25 percent are juniors, 18 percent are seniors and 7 percent are graduate students.

Bentley is unaware of statistics pertaining to the number of students that are aware of CAPS and the services they provide versus those who don’t.

Both Bentley and Bush believe the negative stigma surround mental health is being diminished. At this point, they said, it comes down to education and accepting those services.

Michael Scott Peters, USUSA’s next Executive Council President who ran on a platform on increasing mental health awareness, said that USUSA will expand preventative efforts and increasing support for students in need. This will be accomplished through resiliency exercises, health-related events, and QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) training.

Peters anticipates the additional counselors at CAPS will help decrease patient wait times and improve the mental health services and those with mental illness.

“I want to express my sincere appreciation for the students. We could not do this without their support. I’ve been so overwhelmed with the amount of support that we’ve gotten from students, it’s like we’ve never seen before. Thank you,” Bush said.

 

Dillan.passmore@aggiemail.usu.edu

@dirtyghettopass