Associated Students calling for additional mental health services

STAR // Brandon Stachnik Last semester, Sonoma State University honored mental health awareness week by hanging hearts in the Salazar Quad with facts relating to mental health. This semester, Associated Students is advocating for increased funding for the Counseling and Psychological Services to meet the needs of students.

STAR // Brandon Stachnik

Last semester, Sonoma State University honored mental health awareness week by hanging hearts in the Salazar Quad with facts relating to mental health. This semester, Associated Students is advocating for increased funding for the Counseling and Psychological Services to meet the needs of students.

More than 40 percent of students who have gone to Counseling and Psychological Services have reported thoughts of suicide two weeks prior to their appointment with a counselor. Due to the increase in demand for CAPS, the Associated Students of Sonoma State Universitycalled for additional support for mental health services on campus.
Counseling and psychological services, offers confidential counseling to students who are experiencing personal difficulties interfering with their academics or overall well being.

On Dec. 11 last year, the resolution was adopted by the Associated Students as CAPS saw a 22 percent increase in the amount of students that needed their services.

“I contacted Dr. Williams of CAPS for some statistics on their workload and the severity of the problems they were seeing on a daily basis,” said Russell De Jong, senator for the school of social sciences and primary author of the resolution. “That’s when I really knew I needed to do something.”

The resolution created by the Associated Students notes numerous statistics involving the counseling center on campus. During the fall semester, 15 students were sent to the hospital by the center compared to the five that were sent throughout the 2014-15 academic year.

While CAPS has said that all students who need their services will be seen, some students who needed services in the fall semester were not scheduled to meet with a counselor until the spring.

“The CAPS staff has been working diligently to adapt to the increased distress students are coming in with and to the overall growing demand for services,” said Laura Williams, clinical director and crisis advocate for CAPS on campus.

According to the International Association of Counselling Services, a staff to student ratio of 1:1000 to 1:9000 is recommended. The current ratio at Sonoma State University is 1:1900.

“To effectively deal with the situation, we would need to hire more counselors,” said Williams, “Given that we are a 100 percent student fee funded program, we are unable to hire any additional counselors without an increasen the current fee.”

A fee of 54 dollars per semester is paid by students which supports CAPS and this covers ten meetings for that semester.  

”As for the action that can be taken to resolve the issue,” said De Jong, “Reallocating university money to CAPS to hire another full time counselor would be a great start.”

De Jong accounts his relationship to someone who has had problems with mental illness as to what made him become aware of the effects of mental illness, as well pursuing a major in psychology.

A compromise is necessary on the issue, as about 60 percent of students with mental illness end up dropping out of school because of their illness. However students are encouraged to practice self-care.

“Self-care is too often lost in today’s ‘perform or die’ type atmosphere,” said De Jong, “and I personally believe that is one of the main contributors to our campus’s and our country’s rash of mental illness.”

Whether it’sthrough added funds to CAPS or additional support towards self-care, the university and its students can be sure that the Associated Students and CAPS say they will work closely together to try to solve the issue. CAPS can be contacted by calling 707 664-2153 between 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.