Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 27, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY

BlogsActivism 101

Dear Ithaca College, You need to #GetCAPSReady

Fall semester started out great. I was a new RA. It was still sunny in Ithaca. I was catching up with friends. Everything was good. Then I got some pretty distressing news disclosed to me out of nowhere. A few weeks later, relationships with family members become strained and some dissolved completely.

It was rough, to say the least. I oscillated between running to make myself feel better and eating chocolate covered almonds and watching Parks and Rec alone in my bedroom. I walked to class with my belt completely undone one time. I just had so much going on.

Then I got up the courage to go to CAPS.

I struggled in my decision to talk about this online but Ithaca College’s decision to deny the funding for another counselor shows me that we have a tough time prioritizing and talking about mental health. This is a blog all about activism and I think I would be doing my campus a disservice if I didn’t talk about how students have been speaking up about this issue and if I didn’t join them myself.

I realized that I was dealing with a lot. I realized that I needed to talk with someone about it. I went to CAPS after weeks of telling myself—I’m embarrassed to say—that I shouldn’t need to go there. That I needed to get tougher. I wasn’t being fair to myself. Mental health matters and I needed to take care of myself.

So I went to CAPS and I was told that the next available appointment was a month away.

I remember asking if there was anything sooner. I remember being asked if this was really a crisis. At that point, I had yet to really wrap my head around everything that was happening in my life. Was this a crisis? I thought to myself. In that moment, I had to prioritize whether or not my particular situation was more important than someone else’s and think about whether or not what I was going through was bad enough to be seen right away.

I shouldn’t have had to make that choice.

I accepted the appointment and put it in my calendar which became a countdown to when I could stop keeping all my thoughts to myself. I remember feeling like weight was piling up on my shoulders as I waited for that appointment. I was meeting one-on-one with my residents at that time and I remember bringing up CAPS as a resource a couple times. That’s what they told us to do during training but I felt guilty doing it because I knew they would just be told to wait.

I’m sharing this because I know that many others have similar stories. Students aren’t going to be satisfied with a school that doesn’t take their problems and mental health seriously. College is a privilege, but it can also be a stressful time for many people. This is completely normal. Many students seek out counseling services. But it is so so stigmatized. We need to break this down by continuing the conversation on campus.

Sometimes life happens. Sometimes bad news disrupts a perfectly good semester. Sometimes your course load is too demanding. Sometimes you lose touch with friends. Sometimes you go through a break up. The list goes on. My point is that things happen and those problems should be validated and seeking help should be free of stigma.

Mental health matters and this needs to be made clear by administrators. Why is my tuition going up but the funding for the resources isn’t being met?

Just something to think about.

Even though things have turned around a lot for me, it took time and looking back I really could have used more support that CAPS couldn’t feasibly offer me because it lacked the funds to do so. Many students are in the same boat and are discouraged by this and feel as if they aren’t being listened to. This makes students seek out these services even less. That’s not okay.

I’m so proud of my fellow students for speaking up and starting the hashtag GetCAPSReady. We see a problem and we’re saying something about it. Student voices carry a lot of weight and have a lot power. I encourage you to use yours and tell administrators what you want from your college.

I’m saying we need more funding, we need another counselor, and we need to create a space on campus where student needs are taken seriously.

Let’s keep talking. Let keep asking for what we need from our college.