“I’ll always hold hope for you.”
A compassionate, gifted nurse practitioner at Campus Health Services offered these words to me on numerous occasions as she helped me navigate the medical repercussions of a severe eating disorder throughout my five years at UNC. In light of my largely positive experience with CHS, I believe that Counseling and Psychological Services needs to reimagine its individual therapy model.
At present, there is a session limit for students seeking individual therapy at CAPS, with a focus on brief interventions and community referrals. While I understand this model, I know it limits the access many students have to long-term individual therapy for issues such as eating disorders, depression, anxiety and more. For example, I knew a friend and peer that reached her session limit at CAPS and was referred to a community provider. The problem was she did not have a car to enable her to attend regular sessions. Yes, Chapel Hill Transit was an option, but her battle with depression was such an obstacle that getting on a bus felt like an ordeal. For someone with a mental illness such as depression, in which it can be difficult to get up in the morning and attend classes, getting on a bus can be hard. To have a place to go on campus, near his or her classes, feels much more doable.
I would like to suggest two ideas for CAPS: eliminate session limits and further expand CAPS, perhaps creating a larger space with more staff, or coordinating with the UNC Hospitals’ STEP Community Clinic for individuals with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. Because the STEP Community Clinic is located within the Neurosciences Hospital at UNC, located adjacent to CHS and CAPS, I believe this is a viable option for students with transportation constraints and other limitations resulting from a mental health concern. There should be a stronger working relationship between CAPS and the community clinic if it is not present already. As far as eating disorder treatments, the UNC Hospitals’ Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders is another option. In my experience, my medical provider at CHS worked closely with CEED to provide holistic treatment for my eating disorder. While this was my experience, I know that it is not the experience of many students, such as my friend, with other mental illnesses and concerns.
In light of the words of my nurse practitioner at CHS, I am holding hope for CAPS and its ability to serve more students in need, increasing their access to mental healthcare.