Campus Beat Reporter
On Friday, Jan. 31, (UC Santa Barbara) UCSB’s Associated Students Office of the President (ASOP) hosted their first annual Mental Health Town Hall, where students and faculty discussed the mental health resources on campus.
After a brief introduction by A.S. Executive Director Marisela Márquez explaining the schedule for the event, A.S. President Alison Sir gave a speech about mental health. Sir explained how she first found out about the stigma surrounding mental health after her older brother experienced clinical depression in college. Her brother came home and told his parents that they didn’t understand how hard it was for him to be depressed, and this allowed Sir and her family to become more educated on the topic. Sir added that she has “also become more educated during [her] time at UCSB.”
After Sir’s speech, members from UCSB’s Mental Health Taskforce, Sharleen O’Brien and Edwin Feliciano, M.D., spoke about the task force. The goals of the task force are to optimize services across departments on campus, increase visibility and accessibility of services, and develop tools to communicate to the campus what services are available and how to access them. There are also four subcommittees of the task force, including the clinical subcommittee and the community of care subcommittee.
For about an hour, Sir and Feliciano joined Jackie Kurta, director of UCSB’s Alcohol and Drug Program, Brian Olowude, Ph.D, director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Daevionne Beasley, resident assistant (R.A.) and the A.S. external vice president of statewide affairs, and CAPS Mental Health Peer Jasmine for a dialogue regarding mental health.
When asked how confidential CAPS is, Olowude stated that they take confidentiality very seriously. “We only share information if the student’s condition can put themselves or others in danger,” said Olowude. A mandated reporter, explained by Kurta, is one person who is required to share said information especially in cases of abuse to others or a certain individual.
Beasley explained that students he knows both from his R.A. work and his personal life are somewhat cautious about sharing their mental health conditions. For some students, they would be very happy and all of a sudden became desolate or isolated from their friends. It took others to notice their struggle. “I felt bad that I didn’t realize earlier,” Beasley shared.
The training to become an R.A. is very in-depth, however. For three weeks prospective, R.A.s are taught everything there is to know about how to help their students, including the health resources that are available. Beasley said the best way that he utilizes this information is by giving his students gentle reminders that there is help. “Sometimes students don’t want a clinician, they just want someone to talk to and listen to them,” said Beasley.
Sir asked the group of professionals (Kurta, Olowude and Feliciano) if students’ visits to CAPS would be reported to prospective graduate schools or employers. Kurta explained that graduate schools will never ask for, or receive, this information. However, some employers may ask for this information to ensure the person is suitable to work.
The final question discussed was the pros and cons of UCSB Student Health. Sir explained that she believes Student Health has good student programs, but there is a lack of education and outreach to upperclassmen. “It’s important to continue this for older students so that they know how to practice self-care after graduation.”
After this discussion, students, adults and professionals grouped up and talked about mental health, the education, the stigma around it, and other concerns. Olowude asked a group how students can become more prepared for long wait times at CAPS, and it was suggested that creating an app that could tell students how long they’d have to wait might be beneficial in getting more students to visit CAPS.
After the discussion, the attendees came together to discuss what they found in their groups. The attendees found that people might drop hints that they are struggling and may not come right out and say it because they are afraid and that the average student knows little about their resources. A consensus was reached that in order to help students better, mental health should be talked about more in order to ensure equal access to those resources.