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Students question UNC's role with mental health services

The rate of college students seeking counseling for depression and anxiety is rising, according to a report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, and students are questioning the role of universities in providing mental health services.

The University refers students struggling with mental health to Counseling and Psychological Services, a division of Campus Health that offers mental health assessments, several types of counseling and private counseling referrals. CAPS has received more attention from students in the last several years as organizations like student government have pushed for greater mental health awareness on campus.

Students have had mixed responses about the effectiveness of CAPS as well as what its role should be at a major university.

Spencer Mamo, a UNC junior, believes the University will never be able to provide enough lasting support for students with the current model CAPS provides.

“The University's job isn’t necessarily to look out for the mental health of its students,” Mamo said. “So many of the issues we face, like the somewhat toxic rise of social media, are just going to keep growing, and places like CAPS can’t provide support for every single student when it gets to that point.”

Mamo said he believes CAPS should only operate as a referral center that directs students to private counseling, as opposed to trying to suit a small number of therapists to the entire student body. 

Luke Davis, a UNC sophomore, said it is UNC’s responsibility to provide adequate mental health care for everyone.

“Because so much of what’s happening to students with mental health is happening because of the current college environment, I think a lot of that falls on the University to respond to,” he said.

CAPS could not be reached for comment. 

Other North Carolina colleges like the UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem have increased their mental health services after demand by students. At UNCSA, session limits were eliminated in favor of an as-needed approach to counseling.

According to the study, anxiety is the number one reason students seek mental health services on college campuses. Depression was the second highest reason, followed by stress and family. 

“We’ve created a culture of comparing yourself to others,” said Mamo. “You’re looking at the best of everyone’s life and comparing it to yours, and as young people surrounded by all this, it can’t be good for our mental health.”

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