Mental health care falls short at Tulane

Sarah Simon, Views Editor

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We are living in a state of mental health crisis. According to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, between the 2009-10 and 2014-15 school years, the rate of students seeking mental health services on college campuses increased by nearly 30 percent. Whether this is indicative of an influx of students needing care or an influx of students feeling comfortable seeking help, the response should be the same — colleges need to increase mental health services. Additionally, service providers should increase outreach, so all student demographics feel comfortable getting help.

The same year as the CCMH report, Tulane lost four students to suicide. Last year, The Hullabaloo published an article about “the undertow” — how students perceive others to have a “perfect” or “ideal” life and the overwhelming pressure to achieve that ideal. Here, it involves a mix of perfect grades, a perfect appearance and a perfect social life, linked to frequent partying.

The Hullabaloo has also published a regular column called “Brain Waves” to try to tackle the stigma on mental health. Students use it as a platform to tell their personal stories. This resource is cathartic and inspiring. It lets students open up a conversation and a culture of acceptance, but stories alone will not heal our student body.

Tulane does provide mental health services for its students through Counseling and Psychological Services. Students access 12 free sessions a year, but unless they face an emergency (where they can access care as soon as possible during business hours), they must step through hoops in a bureaucracy that prevents easy access to care.

For most health services on campus, students can make health appointments through the student health portal on Gibson Online. For CAPS, students must call or make an appointment in person. For students who struggle to get help, it may be difficult to call or walk in for an appointment. For students with anxiety or who may feel uncomfortable asking for help in person, it is not appropriate for the administration to force them to make these moves to get help.

Additionally, there are too few therapists of color. While the vast majority of the Tulane student body is white, students of color may not be able to get the proper care from white therapists. A 2015 survey found that in the U.S., black and Latinx students report feeling more overwhelmed in college, but also are less likely than white students to get help.

From the staff list on the website for CAPS, there appears to be one non-white therapist pictured. CAPS Director Donna Bender told The Hullabaloo that of the 24-person staff, 24 percent identify as non-white or Latinx. It is unclear if the staff includes social workers, desk coordinators or other staff members associated with CAPS. Regardless, 28.7 percent of Tulane students are non-white. These students need access to mental health workers who can relate to the experiences of living as a minority on this campus.

In the modern epidemic of mental health issues, everyone requires better care. It is impossible to serve everyone’s needs perfectly, but in a primarily non-white city, it is important to reconcile how our mental health services impact students of color. As an institution, we need to have a conversation on whose mental health is getting destigmatized. We need “Brain Waves” about race. We need therapists who know specifically how to deal with race. We need to open up the movement towards change to all members of our community.