UCSD received a C+ grade in the UC Student Association’s mental health services evaluation on Feb. 9. UCSA conducted the study as part of the #HowAreYou campaign, which aims to draw attention to the University of California’s failure to provide adequate services for students in need of mental help.
A.S. Vice President of External Affairs Krystl Fabella, who is also a member of UCSA’s Board of Directors, described to the UCSD Guardian how UCSD’s score reflects how there is an a need for more mental health services. Evidence of this can be seen with the student-to-counselor ratio being 1550:1.
“It is a testament to really how under-resourced, understaffed, underfunded our CAPS services are,” Fabella said. “While the fact that more students are utilizing CAPS for counseling shows that mental illness is becoming less stigmatized and students are encouraged to get help, we don’t have the capacity to meet these needs.”
Fabella also thinks that the four-week waiting period for students to receive a CAPS appointment is another example of how UCSD needs to prioritize counseling.
“It is absolutely appalling,” Fabella commented. “Help for mental health crises should be immediate, just as physical illnesses are treated with urgency. As we know, they don’t happen in long durations of weeks, but are often unanticipated and are due to present factors.”
Between September 2015 and February 2016, UCSA sent student researchers to meet with CAPS directors and staff who were asked to answer 17 questions focused on three core areas: accessibility, diversity of staff and amount of student outreach by on-campus mental health centers. The responses were compiled into a final score for each campus on a scale of A to F; the average score across the UC campuses was a C.
CAPS Director Reina Juarez explained to the Guardian how CAPS is working to address the accessibility area that UCSA’s evaluation called for.
“[Accessibility] is an issue that we have been working diligently to address,” Juarez said. “The student services fee increased by 5 percent for 2015–2016 and is scheduled to continue increasing by 5 percent annually for the next five years. Half of these funds have been earmarked for the hiring of additional mental health staff on the campuses.”
Juarez added that CAPS is currently working on addressing the staffing issue that #HowAreYou mandated the university to fix.
“Hiring of these positions — psychologists, psychiatrists and licensed clinical social workers and case managers — has already begun, and our recruitment is focused on fulfilling the diversity needs of each campus,” Juarez said.
Fabella argued that the importance of providing available and quality mental health services is crucial for UCSD because of the stress that academics bring to students.
“UCSD is an academically rigorous and focused school where the social culture is overpowered by academically competitive nature,” Fabella said. “We have an academic culture where students are programmed to make their coursework the number one priority, but forego a lot of important parts about human nature, like self care … socializing, connecting, prioritizing a support system, activities and so on. Obviously, school should be the number one priority, but we’ve appropriated it at the cost of mental wellbeing.”