Group therapy at CAPS increased by 11.7 percent in the 2013-14 academic year from the year before. In that same year, evaluations for medication at CAPS increased by 17.2 percent, and checks on medication increased almost 30 percent.
O’Barr said there are a number of reasons for the growth. Depression and anxiety increase in fast-paced environments, and he believes people aren’t equipped to deal with the added stress.
“While information speed is moving at an exponential rate, we’re biologically adapting at a linear rate, if not a flat rate,” O’Barr said.
After working at UNC for more than 20 years, he said he’s noticed the stigmas surrounding mental health are subsiding.
Taylor Swankie is the co-chairwoman of Rethink: Psychiatric Illness, a student group that formed to help educate the campus community about mental health issues.
“It’s something that the University has been concerned about in the past and has pushed for,” she said. “But now that there are student organizations like Rethink and Stigma Free Carolina and Active Minds, there’s more student voice in that conversation.”
Swankie said Rethink recently led a workshop for resident advisers. The group regularly holds four-hour trainings on campus to dispel myths about mental illness and discuss what resources are available on campus.
“On campus, people are talking about it,” she said. “For me, that’s a really important first step.”
CAPS welcomes the decreasing stigma.
“We certainly want to do whatever we can to make people feel more comfortable if they feel like there’s a barrier to coming in here,” O’Barr said.
Psychiatry professor Michael Hill specializes in seasonal depression and other mental illnesses.
“The word is out in the last decade about these being biological illnesses like heart disease,” Hill said. “Most people can get better, and a significant portion of people can get 100 percent better.”
Hill said he understands mental illness can be scary for patients, but that’s all the more reason to seek help.
“These are all very treatable things. That’s all the more reason to check in sooner than later,” he said. "(CAPS) can be the initial step.”