The number of students seeking help for mental health issues has increased steadily, but this is the first semester that Counseling and Psychological Services employees are worried they might not have the chance to meet with everyone, CAPS director Peter LeViness said. 

The waitlist for an appointment is 114 students long at the time of publishing, LeViness said. The previous longest waitlist ever was 38 to 40 students, he said. 

CAPS offers mental health services to students on campus. Since the 2002-2003 school year, CAPS has seen a regular increase in clients per year.

This increase is not necessarily because of the increase in disorders in students, but more likely because of the decrease in stigma about mental health, LeViness said. 

“When I was a student, not a single person I met in my four years said they went to counseling," LeViness said. "Now people are more open.” 

College students are becoming more comfortable with admitting when they need help, and then following through to get it, which overall is a good thing, LeViness said. Nationally, less than half of people with a mental disorder seek help within 12 months, but the percentage of college-aged students seeking out help is much higher, he said.

This has become a problem across many college campuses because no one anticipated the increase, LeViness said. Since LeViness joined the university in 2002, CAPS has expanded its staff to the equivalent of nine full-time counselors – compared to the 3.2 when he started.  

When counselors are completely booked, CAPS staff members have two options. If they think the student is in crisis, they help them immediately. Otherwise, they give them the opportunity to join the waitlist, LeViness said.

If students choose to go on the waitlist, they are asked to fill out a schedule with all of their available times. If an appointment becomes available, a counselor will reach out to them. The students are also given packets with other resources the school offers and a list of off-campus counselors, LeViness said. 

Since CAPS has dealt with issues involving the waitlist for several years now, its staff members have come up with additional programming that can help the students on campus. 

CAPS interns have been working on finding effective ways to advertise the additional resources around campus, junior Ally Charleston, a CAPS intern, wrote in an email.

“We have access to URWell’s Instagram account now and are trying to utilize that," Charleston said. "We are coming up with more ideas to advertise now.” 

CAPS interns have also been tabling in Tyler Haynes Commons for events such as World Mental Health Day and have partnered with on-campus speakers such as junior Alex Carroll, who gave a speech on eating disorders

The interns have also worked with the Office of the Chaplaincy by organizing stress-reducing activities such as “Study Break for the Soul,” collaborated with the Resident Assistants by giving their residents helpful tips on time-management and stress-reduction and served as a resource for the Westhampton College Student Government Association's  “Decompress in the Deanery” event, CAPS intern and senior Hannah Wolfe wrote in an email. 

The interns also created an email – capsinterns@gmail.com -- for anyone interested in partnering with them for an event, Wolfe said in an email. 

Senior Anna Lowenthal has attended CAPS since her first year and has never been on the waitlist because she has always registered early, Lowenthal said. 

“I’ve had friends on [the waitlist]," Lownethal said. "I think CAPS does a really good job of doing everything they can while you’re on the waitlist by providing resources, etc.” 

Lowenthal also used CAPS programming last year while completing the ADHD Skills Program, which is offered to students registered in CAPS as a three- to four-week program on campus, Lowenthal said. The sessions had a number of useful tips and tricks that helped the students walk away feeling more organized, Lowenthal said. 

Last year, 50 to 70 students participated in one or more of the CAPS programs, and the office successfully ran a session of them earlier this semester as well, LeViness said. For the second half of this semester – even with the longer waitlist – CAPS was unable to get enough students to participate for CAPS to run the program for the second time, LeViness said. 

In response to the waitlist this semester, one of the counselors added a time to offer weekly drop-in group counseling on Tuesdays from 9-10 a.m. The first session was Tuesday, Oct. 30, but no students showed up, LeViness said. 

The group counseling sessions are being offered to anyone registered with CAPS and are being especially advertised to students on the waitlist. The office will continue to offer the sessions through the semester, LeViness said.

This is also the first year that CAPS is offering online self-help resources on Therapy Assisted Online. This is an online resource that the counselors use in conjunction with talk-sessions, but now any students can create an account and follow personalized recommendations for specific topics, LeViness said.  

The office is also offering brief screening appointments to students on the waitlist. These are 15-to-20-minute sessions that help the counselors address what a student needs now and check to see whether the office has any resources to offer them immediately, LeViness said. 

“We want to get the word out that CAPS does a lot more than just one-on-one meetings with clients, and many of these resources can be a great alternative, especially for students waiting to get an appointment,” Wolfe said.

The goal is to get at least everyone on the waitlist in the office for a brief screening appointment before the semester ends, LeViness said. 

Contact contributor Julia Muro at julia.muro@richmond.edu.