Mental health programs like CAPS deserve more funding, attention

Mental health on college campuses is an enduring issue, and campus health services across the country are making serious efforts to address the constantly fluctuating, and generally increasing, needs of their students. Here at Tulane, Counseling and Psychological Services is no exception.

According to Program Director Donna Bender, CAPS added another year-round staff position in response to the growth of Tulane’s student body. CAPS also instituted changes to reduce its average wait time and have made efforts putting together a more diverse staff. Whether these changes will yield substantial results remains to be seen, but it does make one optimistic about the direction that CAPS is walking in — though we may want them to pick up the pace.

Despite the struggles it is facing, CAPS is actively creating ways to improve student health. In addition to developing a new group therapy program, CAPS and Campus Health are developing a new Alcohol and Other Drugs initiative which, according to Bender, will include hiring a therapist to assess and work with students with substance issues and eventually the establishing a recovery community.

Furthermore, it is worth acknowledging some of the genuine progress CAPS is making. With 11 combined staff therapists and psychologists and an undergraduate enrollment of 13,602, Tulane has a professional counselor to student ratio of about 1:1237. That puts the school comfortably inline with the ratio range recommended by the International Association of Counseling Services of 1:1,000-1,500. The majority of colleges do not meet this standard, so we can take some pride in our current standing.

We should not settle, however, for a “satisfactory” level of investment in the CAPS staff. Tulane should see itself as a university on the rise, and we should lead the way as investors in collegiate mental health. Indeed, it’s exciting to think about how much CAPS could accomplish if it had more resources at its disposal.

Aside from increasing the well-being of students, greater investment in mental health would have bottom-line benefits. A more mentally healthy student body drops out at lower rates, which would earn Tulane alumni donations down the road and retain more tuition now.

Looking to Tulane’s future, the administration should have the audacity to put funding for CAPS front and center in its overtures to potential donors. Investments in new buildings and equipment are great, but a comparable emphasis should be put on the mental well-being of Tulane’s greatest assets: its students.