CAPS, UHS

The Center for Counseling and Psychological Services is located on the fifth floor of the Student Health Center.

Every person carries hidden weights within them.

The start of a new semester this fall may make those weights a bit heavier, and those mental strains can become even more difficult to bear without a support system.

Support systems come in many shapes and forms, like family and friends — or the university someone attends. Penn State must embrace its role as a support system for students in order to truly be a safe space for everyone.

And the university has an obligation to step up to the plate when it comes to offering students the support they need to get through life at college. While Penn State’s Counseling & Psychological Services offers a wide range of services, those services aren’t as accessible or understandable to students as they need to be.

CAPS offers group, individual and couples counseling, wellness and self-help options, crisis intervention, psychiatric services, virtual services and community education and outreach services for the university community, according to its website.

With more understanding of what these services entail, the resources available might not be as daunting to utilize.

After an initial consultation session, students are referred to individual counseling sessions only if their specific case dictates that kind of treatment. Otherwise, they are referred to a different service at CAPS, such as group counseling, or referred to an off-campus service provider.

But students may not be comfortable going to off-campus therapy if their insurance doesn’t cover it or if they haven’t told their parents or insurance policyholder about starting therapy.

Simply referring students to off-campus counseling may make a student feel like the university is giving up on them.

Especially starting college as a freshman, navigating these systems at a large university can feel even more overwhelming. But no matter how difficult these processes may seem, don’t give up because there’s always help available.

If a student was willing to come forward about their mental health struggles, then Penn State must see that journey through.

CAPS must work to normalize the other services it offers outside of individual counseling sessions, like group therapy, in order to fulfill all Penn State students’ needs — and even more funding could help as well.

And with its new director, Natalie Hernandez DePalma, these changes have a better chance of being made since her goals surround collaboration and connection. Whenever someone new steps into a role, there’s always hope for change, which is crucial at the beginning of an academic year while students are still adjusting.

However, the overarching issue simply boils down to destigmatizing mental health at the university. If it was viewed in the same light as physical health, greater progress could authentically be made.

The resources Penn State University Health Services provide are seemingly boundless in comparison to the experiences students have at CAPS.

And physical health is clearly prioritized since students are able to access the Intramural Building and other on-campus gyms as many times as they please within gyms’ hours of operation.

If a student was physically ill, professors would be more lenient about their workload, but it’s hard for a student to ask for a mental break if the weights are piling up.

Professors and figures on campus, like resident coordinators and assistants, can preface authentic mental health support from the start to help students feel seen. Becoming burnt out is an issue many students can relate to — especially following the coronavirus pandemic and persistent negative news cycle.

Penn State needs to bring back the spirit that surrounded wellness days because during that time, mental health was finally talked about at the university level.

There’s still work that needs to be done, and there’s still conversations that need to be had by administration to make all students feel seen and heard from a mental standpoint.

As of now, mental health support is just another bullet point that professors have to cover on the syllabus during the first week of class, but it’s so much more than that.

Putting mental and physical health on the same playing field will make the stigma decrease, and the university can spearhead that need for change by consistently supporting students.

No one will ever live in a world without problems, but with added support from Penn State, those weights we carry can become a little lighter.

If you are experiencing an emergency or crisis, contact the Penn State Crisis Line at 877-229-6400 or dial 911.

Daily Collegian Opinion Editor Phoebe Cykosky can be reached at pkc5181@psu.edu.

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