The National College Health Assessment Survey has found that Ithaca College students are drinking alcohol and using marijuana at a rate higher than the national average, and this has been the case for the past 12 years. In response, the college’s Center for Health Promotion has implemented programs, such as the Balancing Alcohol and Substance Use to Improve College Success program, to combat substance abuse.
While programs like this are good to have and should continue to be promoted, they may not be addressing the root of the issue. The survey also found students at the college have more stress than the national average, which could be a possible cause for the high rates of alcohol consumption and drug use. In this case, it appears students may not be getting the mental health support they should be.
But it’s not that the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services doesn’t offer this support. It’s just that the support is not advertised enough, and students who may need the services but are not actively seeking them probably are not aware of them. CAPS offers weekly support groups — such as a Stress Management and Mindfulness Group — and other forms of consistent therapy, all of which can be found on the CAPS website. Students struggling with something like stress could take advantage of this if only they were aware of these opportunities.
Because CAPS does not have the staff or resources to adequately provide long-term individual counseling to many students, it is all the more important that it advertise the other services it offers that may be more available to the students who are not able to receive long-term individual counseling. Moreover, students dealing with undiagnosed mental health issues like stress may be less likely to actively pursue CAPS’s services, but if they were more heavily advertised, these students could get the help they need without having to step outside of their comfort zones to ask for it.
Clearly, the college faces a significant issue with managing the mental health issues of its students, and this is likely influential in the NCHA survey results. Therefore, in addition to substance abuse prevention and counseling programs, CAPS is in need of widespread, public promotion of its less publicized services so all students struggling with mental health, to whatever degree, can easily access and be knowledgeable about the support systems available to them.