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University Mental Health Service Use Spikes Given Pandemic

By Saba Mann | May 11, 2021

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of students using the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) has spiked over the course of this year and 2020.

CAPS saw the biggest increase in the number of appointments in the summer of 2020, increasing to 61% compared to the summer of 2019. The fall of 2020 also saw an increase of 11% more than what was seen in the fall of 2019.

Despite the increase in appointments, CAPS has been understaffed, operating with two fewer staff members.

The number of appointments for the current spring term has exceeded those of the spring of 2020.

Although service use has gradually been rising over recent years, the spike in service use over the summer has been uncommon.

Virtual services explain the rise in summer appointments, as students who aren't on campus over the summer aren't able to attend in-person appointments.

“I also believe that, in some instances, virtual services offer an additional layer of privacy for students who may not feel comfortable coming in person out of concerns related to stigma around seeking mental health services,” said Dr. Karen Sokolowski, the Director of CAPS.

Dr. Sokolowski also states that virtual appointments result in fewer no-shows and offer greater convenience for students who are afraid to discuss their concerns in person due to the stigma attached to receiving mental health services.

But Dr. Sokolowski realizes that it may pose a challenge for those who do not have a private space when living with family or roommates.

“...CAPS staff are working incredibly hard, and we all hope to be able to grow our staff to further improve our ability to meet the mental health needs of students,” Dr. Sokolowski said.

Dr. Sokolowski is hoping to increase the diversity along with the number of staff.

“In addition, I would like to be able to provide more services tailored to the mental health needs of students from marginalized groups, including our BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students and students with disabilities,” Dr. Sokolowski said.

If provided with more funding, CAPS would be interested in providing access to a mental health professional outside of business hours.

“I believe that the University is interested in helping us to continue and improve mental health services and support for students,” Dr. Sokolowski said.


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