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Mental health services still available to Brown on-campus and afar: 'We’re talking to people all over the world'

CAPS provide virtual, in-person care, work with identity centers during pandemic

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when many students find themselves far from campus and their usual mental health resources, Counseling and Psychological Services is still providing services to students across College Hill and the globe.

CAPS providers now offer telehealth services in order “to serve the student community of Brown in every way we can,” even when students are away from campus, CAPS Director Dr. Will Meek told The Herald.

CAPS has made many adjustments for students wherever they are, Meek said. Their default mode of communication with patients is Zoom video conferencing, but “we’re basically doing whatever way students prefer,” Meek said, adding that some students have opted for speaking on the phone instead. 

Because of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s stay-at-home order announced March 28, CAPS no longer has a typical campus staff team in place, according to Meek. “For every situation so far, we’ve been able to handle it remotely really well,” but CAPS does have a small team in place to respond to emergent situations on campus, he added.

Meanwhile, CAPS is “continuing to provide therapy care for people that need it, no matter where they end up on the globe,” Meek said. “We’re talking to people all over the world.” 

Everyone with a standing appointment before classes went remote was informed that appointments would continue virtually, and many people chose to continue. Additionally, Meek stated that “we’re starting to see some new folks as well,” adding that it may be even easier now to make an appointment. “Nobody (who) wants to see us is waiting more than a day right now to talk to a counselor,” he said.

For the past few weeks, counseling center demand had gone down, Meek said, likely as students focused their efforts on getting home and figuring out their immediate plans. But he added that after Spring Break, “we’ve already started to see the beginning of (a) bounce back.” Throughout April, Meek expects a large uptick in the need and demand for various CAPS services because “there’s no life (COVID-19) hasn’t touched.”

Additionally, use of CAPS services could be increasing because virtual appointments may seem more welcoming to students than in-person meetings. Leona Hariharan ’23, who is involved with BWell Health Promotion and the Undergraduate Council of Students Student Wellness Committee, said that she has never been to CAPS on campus but that she started using their remote services a few weeks ago because “the telehealth services are much more approachable,” she said.

Hariharan commented that, “The idea of walking into that fifth floor of Page-Robinson was a little terrifying. Now … I just get to sit in my bedroom and talk to someone. It’s much easier.” With a three-hour time difference, Hariharan said that scheduling appointments “hasn’t been that hard for me,” but added that it could be much more difficult for students in different time zones. 

She also added these telehealth systems should have been in place long before for students who, for example, are intimidated by going into a counselor’s office or are too sick to get out of bed. “There are a lot of people who found health services inaccessible and it’s kind of ridiculous they didn’t have telehealth services in place until now,” Hariharan said.

To Meek’s knowledge, CAPS providing services remotely outside of Rhode Island is unprecedented at the University. He added that some of the changes made for COVID-19 will remain a part of CAPS’ program upon returning to campus, but is unsure of which aspects.

Additionally, CAPS is in the midst of developing other programs and outreach activities to help students “build virtual communities,” Meek said. “One of the things we’re paying particular attention to are Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander students that may be experiencing bias or discrimination incidents. … We’re figuring out how to support (them) the best we can given those circumstances right now.”

CAPS is also working with partners in identity centers and other groups on campus to launch a new wave of outreach and community building, Meek said. He added that the most important thing is making sure CAPS is there for students. “I really just want students to know, we’re still here for them. We’re still working; we’re still providing a lot of care.”


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