mental health editorial

Last week, it was unveiled that the 2020 class gift will be an endowment to CAPS, also known as Counseling and Psychological Services. This gift marks the second graduating class in less than five years that has voted to do so.

Simply put, the university should see it as a wake up call that its students, again, decided the most impactful gift it could bestow on future classes is more funding toward its mental health programs, which are constantly in high demand.

A 2018 study by the American Psychological Association showed that one in three college freshmen have some diagnosis of a mental health disorder. At University Park, that would have been close to 3,000 first year students last year.

Is our CAPS program capable of serving 3,000 students from each class, or a total of about 12,000 students?

As students continue to help fund their own mental health programs through fees, Penn State needs to take it upon itself to more efficiently expand itself to the demand from students to improve upon CAPS.

However, it would be ignorant to pretend that isn’t a tall order to fulfill, and many students know that. Circumstances will never be perfect, but CAPS will surely need more than just student donations to fulfill the needs from students that it still lacks — even if all possible efforts thus far have truly been put forward toward improving the entity.

While the university has increased its support of CAPS in recent years, there will always be more work that can be done as student demand for mental health resources continues to increase.

After the class of 2016 made its class gift an endowment to CAPS, the university released a statement detailing what would be allotted to CAPS — not just from the gift, but from the university, student fees and more donors.

Four years later, the current senior class decided CAPS could still use more funding to meet the student body’s needs, and offered another endowment.

It is impossible to know for sure how exactly the money from the 2020 class gift will be allocated, but some form of change is necessary. Compared to the alternatives, the CAPS endowment is a choice for the class gift that will hopefully have the most significant impact on the greatest amount of people.

It is certainly an improvement the traditional senior class gifts have clearly evolved from physical garnishes on campus, like lamp posts and benches, to programs and facilities that will leave a lasting impact on future Penn State students.

CAPS could be a major resource for students with mental health concerns, but it is also a very limited program. Some of its resources include group counseling programs and weekly CAPS Chat sessions, but CAPS only offer short term individual counseling opportunities for students — otherwise referring them to professionals in the area that some students may not be able to afford.

In a perfect world, CAPS might have a more central, noticeable hub on campus dedicated to mental health resources — a place where students could get the help they need from trained professionals and where alumni could see their money having a real, positive impact.

UPUA has also been working on a resolution to consolidate CAPS into one location — but again, the work is a student-based organization that could likely benefit from with assistance from the university.

There is not one specific person who deserves the blame for CAPS’ struggle to match student demand. However, this has continued to present itself as an issue that needs attention from the university, which continues to be ignored.

The university should continue to notice what its graduating students feel needs attention — and they should work to better provide it themselves.

Despite the complexities behind improving CAPS’ infrastructure, the senior class made a decision that will truly help mold the health and wellness of future classes. From there, one can only hope it leads to tangible progress.

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