Richmond's Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) does not yet have a wait list this semester despite the annual increase of students seeking help, said Dr. Peter LeViness, the director of CAPS and licensed psychologist.
This is a different start to the year than last fall. “Last year we had a waitlist by this week in the semester and this year we don’t yet,” LeViness said.
According to data CAPS released in August of 2016, the amount of students trying to make appointments at CAPS rose from about 600 students in the fall of 2014 to almost 800 students in the fall of 2016.
CAPS, which relocated to Sarah Brunet Hall from Richmond Hall, made a few changes in the past year to try to keep up with the rising rate of students who were looking for help.
Last year, the University gave CAPS funding to hire more part-time contractors, allowing the office to expand their office hours by 10 percent, but it wasn’t enough to cover the 20 percent increase in clients. This year, the university made the funding permanent so CAPS was able to increase their hours about another 10 percent, LeViness said.
CAPS also decided to take away the requirement for returning students with disability accommodations to meet with Dr. Mary Churchill at the beginning of the fall semester. Because of this, Churchill has had more time in the past few weeks to schedule other appointments.
“I still don’t think it’s enough," LeViness said. "From last year’s capacity, my guess is that we will need another full time person on top of what we already have to meet last year’s demand."
Some returning students remember the wait list last year that caused many to seek help off campus.
“I think it’s hard for students to get appointments,” sophomore Alexis Anderson said. “They have a waiting list I believe, and especially if you are not a student who comes a certain time every week or month, I think it’s even harder to get an appointment.”
Westhampton sophomore Susie Shepardson agreed. "I have heard that if you do not get your name in by like the second day of school then it is difficult to get a spot, but once you get in they are wonderful and very helpful," she said.
However, some new students have found it easy to get an appointment so far this year.
“I go to CAPS, and I got in easily. They really made it easy for me to go,” freshman Hallie Meisler said.
According to LeViness, the annual increase in demand for psychological services is a national trend related to the reduced stigma about mental health in the U.S., a fact he learned at the annual Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors conference in 2015.
“One of the things we learned was that most campuses, probably well over 90 percent are struggling with how to meet the demand for counseling services at colleges and universities across the U.S.,” LeViness said.
Students are not more anxious or depressed than they were in the past, they are just more willing to seek mental health services, he said.
“The reduced mental stigma should be something we are celebrating,” LeViness said. “The decades of stigma reduction and normalizing mental health, making it acceptable in public service announcements and all kinds of media messages are having a positive impact because students are asking for help.”
Contact reporter Stephanie Hagan at firstname.lastname@example.org