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A guide to identity-affirming mental health resources at UNC

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The Campus Health Building, where the University's CAPS program is located, pictured on Saturday, August 13, 2022.

New programs at Counseling and Psychological Services are committed to providing culturally competent care to students of varying identities.

For many communities, a deeply entrenched stigma surrounding mental health can hinder students from reaching out to relevant services on campus. 

One of these programs is the Multicultural Health Program, which centers the needs of Black, Indigenous and students of color on campus. The MCHP, which was created in 2020, offers support and care through specialized individual therapy, group therapy, outreach and partnerships with student organizations and departments on campus.

The program’s aim is to combat stigma and misconceptions about therapy and mental health for BIPOC students, said Dr. Erinn Scott, assistant director of the MCHP.

“I know, as someone who navigates the world as a person of color, that there’s probably some similarities in our experience,” she said. “A lot of times our BIPOC students don’t even know that we have other therapists of color here that can really identify with and validate their lived experiences.”

Students can connect with the MCHP through a walk-in or triage appointment at CAPS. The student will then fill out paperwork describing challenges or concerns and meet with a provider who will ask a series of questions. 

From there, the provider will make a recommendation either for further care or a disposition. These recommendations can range from individual, short-term therapy to referrals to therapists within the community for long-term care, as well as medication management and group therapy.

At the point of recommendation, a student can request to meet with an MCHP therapist through CAPS for culturally-focused service. 

“We try to honor that request,” Scott said. “Then, there are times when we can’t, but the provider is really still going to name that and still say, ‘Here’s how I want to acknowledge my own privileges and do the work to make sure that I’m still giving you competent care.’”

CAPS offers a multitude of therapy groups, which students can participate in over an indefinite period of time for a variety of communities, including Asian American students, BIPOC survivors of sexual violence and autistic students.

One of the groups CAPS offers is the Women of Color (WOC) Empowerment Group, started in early June by Dr. Alexis Leca and doctoral psychology intern Markera Jones. 

The purpose of the group is to provide a safe and supportive environment for women of color to discuss their experiences on campus. Topics can range from identity, relationships and self-worth to imposter syndrome and generational patterns, Leca said.

“We really aim to help them feel empowered in their voice,” she said. “I think, coming into this space at UNC — it is a predominantly white institution — there’s a lot of things happening that can feel overwhelming. So it’s nice to be able to have a sense of community amongst your peers.”

UNC Campus Health Services, in collaboration with CAPS, offers resources related to gender-affirming care for transgender students, including identity-related mental health care, medical management, hormone treatment and referrals for surgical services.

An initial appointment consists of discussing goals for transitioning, a detailed consent form and preliminary labs, Dr. Stephanie Edwards-Latchu, a nurse practitioner on Campus Health's gynecology staff, said. She also said that Campus Health does not require prior counseling or documentation from students to access these services.

“Trans care is health care,” she said. “Part of providing comprehensive health care is providing transparency. We want students to feel safe, and we want students to feel like they can come to us as a health care center for all of their care-based needs.”

In the UNC community and beyond, the UNC Suicide Prevention Institute is partnering with Carolina Across 100 to focus on improving mental health, as well as to reduce suicide. 

Carolina Across 100, housed at the School of Government’s ncIMPACT Initiative, is a five-year initiative charged by Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz to connect the University’s resources to communities across North Carolina.

After an application process, communities will be participate in a cohort of collaboratives over the next 12 months focused on suicide prevention and improving the availability of mental and behavioral health support in their communities, Michael Welker, community engagement director for ncIMPACT, said.

“I know that a lot of campuses, including Carolina, have not been unaffected by issues around worsening mental health and suicide,” he said. “And I think that that’s all the more reason for us to leverage the resources that the University has to think about how we address this in communities, how we address this on our own campus.”

@ashnqm

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Ashley Quincin

Ashley Quincin is a 2023-24 assistant university desk editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as a university staff writer. Ashley is a senior pursuing a degree in English and comparative literature, with a double minor in media and journalism and composition, rhetoric and digital literacy.