Unless you have been boycotting social media for the past few weeks, chances are you have seen information about the #getCAPSready campaign that has been floating around the Ithaca College community. Fueled by a rejected funding proposal, which would have been used to hire a new counselor at the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, students have come forward to speak for better support of CAPS.
Unsurprisingly, I fully back this. Young adulthood is a time of incredible stress, especially for students who are dealing with the pressure of a private college’s rigorous academic program along with transitioning into living independently. This time period is also when some of the most serious mental illnesses have their onset. Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia both become symptomatic in mid- to late-adolescence and, like all mental illnesses, can severely and negatively impact a person’s ability to interact with the world. Grades can fall, social relations can suffer and people can feel incredibly lost and vulnerable. Depression and anxiety are also common in students in high-stress environments.
One in four college students have a diagnosable mental illness and close to 1,100 college-aged persons lose their lives to suicide every year. These are huge numbers. Mental health is certainly not something that can be ignored or just swept under the rug. It should be a priority to provide the support and resources students need during this pivotal transition period.
CAPS, which is located on the bottom level of Hammond Health Center, is staffed by licensed professionals who are available and able to provide aid to students free of cost. However, the lack of funding has left the center understaffed, which prevents students from always getting the help they need exactly when they need it. This is no fault of the CAPS counselors, but rather due to the fact that the college believes it is possible for eight people to help 6,700 students. They are overbooked, and it is disappointing that they are not able to get the support they need to provide the support we need.
You might not have a mental illness, but everyone has mental health and this should be something that every student supports. CAPS needs more funding, it needs more counselors and it needs the strength of the student body to achieve that. The campaign’s tagline is “Don’t wait for tragedy to take action.” Don’t.