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UNC works to rethink mental illness

“It probably doesn’t feel good to come into CAPS, finally being able to talk about what’s been bothering you, but then you come in, and after 20 minutes they tell you that you need to go see a therapist outside,” Allen O’Barr, director of CAPS, said.

O’Barr said the quick transition aims to prevent students from having to move out due to a lack of space, funding and availability after forming a relationship with their counselor after a few sessions.

“The type of therapy that we are doing here is brief psychotherapy,” O’Barr said. “It is designed to deal with the problems that are going on right now and to try and figure out a good solution for them.”

What CAPS currently lacks is the ability to offer long-term psychotherapy, which mostly focuses on the underpinnings of why a person might be struggling with mental health issues.

Harry Edwards, UNC student government chief of staff, said he does not think mental health has been taken seriously enough by administrators yet.

“I think mental health, which affects an estimate of 25 percent of our students, has not been taken seriously enough,” he said.

In response to issues like funding and space, Edwards said student government and CAPS plan on assembling a working group to alter the way mental health is dealt with at UNC.

“I think the working group will do a lot of research, find a lot of areas that could be improved, have a lot of recommendations for how we could improve them and find the things that need to be changed policy-wise and funding-wise,” he said.

Edwards said he also wants the group to look into prevention, like changing academic policies to reduce stress and supporting student groups that reduce stigma — including incorporating trainings, such as Rethink: Psychiatric Illness, One Act and HAVEN, into the first-year academic experience.

O’Barr said CAPS is also looking at solutions such as charging insurance after a certain number of sessions or the potential of therapy through technology rather than in person, but both of those options still deal with issues of funding and space.

Junior clinical lab science student Jack Agres said for him, CAPS was a great way to start dealing with issues but didn’t resolve them.

“It needs to be more open to helping cope with the stresses of campus life,” he said. “They focus too much on the quick fix and getting you in and out. I never felt like I was truly comfortable because I always felt like each time I went, I was closing in on the number of sessions you have with them.”

Agres said it is understandable CAPS isn’t capable of handling all of the traffic they get, but he wished he’d gotten more help with finding an off-campus therapist.

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