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Editorial: CAPS must expand access

Despite high demand, mental health resources remain in short supply on College Hill. Counseling and Psychological Services, Brown’s main provider of therapy and mental health support for students, is failing to address the needs of a struggling student body.

The college experience is already stressful in a normal year — even more so during a pandemic. Students have to juggle high-stakes academics, strained sleep schedules and hectic social lives, all amid added concerns over COVID-19 tests and unpredictable pandemic policies. It is no surprise that Brown students have reported to The Herald feeling burned out and overwhelmed this semester.

But when these students seek out CAPS, they are often not able to receive the help they need. Students previously told The Herald about difficulties scheduling appointments with therapists and obtaining consistent mental health counseling. For many students, therapy isn’t a one-time fix. It requires sustained and substantive support, which isn’t possible when CAPS attendees have to settle for infrequent appointments. And the center’s poor reputation regarding appointments does not just affect its current users ­­— it can deter other students from reaching out altogether.

While CAPS is always available for urgent mental health crises, this doesn’t make up for its overall deficiencies. Students shouldn’t feel like they can only be heard when they are at their breaking point. If CAPS improved the accessibility of its regular counseling services, many of these emergencies could be prevented from occurring in the first place.

To its credit, CAPS has implemented new measures this semester, such as the telehealth service HealthiestYou, in order to expand student access to counseling. But virtual resources are no replacement for in-person ones. After a year of Zoom, many students want and, frankly, require opportunities to see a therapist face to face, opportunities that remain far too few.

CAPS is aware of this problem, and its assistant directors previously told The Herald that they are currently looking to hire more employees. And we acknowledge that understaffing, especially amid a pandemic, doesn’t have an easy fix. But as students, we are tired of waiting; CAPS has long faced high demand, and we do not believe that its current failures can be entirely attributed to the pandemic.

CAPS would likely benefit from having a central authority to spearhead new initiatives and address students’ needs. But the center has remained without a director for over a year. CAPS relocated to a new building this semester, yet its underlying issues with accessibility still linger. New facilities are pointless without bold leadership that expands the center’s services.

Psychological and psychiatric support shouldn’t feel like a scarce resource on our campus. It is deeply disheartening, not to mention damaging, when students feel like they aren’t able to receive the services they require. As we work toward a future that recognizes the importance of mental health, the University must invest in and expand its mental health services, starting with CAPS.

CAPS occupies an indispensable role in our community. Despite our criticisms, we recognize the impactful work the center does for Brown students. We see CAPS not as a hopeless project, but as a cornerstone of the University’s mental health resources. For many, the center remains one of the only sources of mental health counseling, particularly for students who cannot afford outside services. Improving CAPS is crucial if we want equitable, as well as effective, care for all on this campus. We also recognize the dedication of CAPS employees, whose hard work has improved the lives of so many Brown students.

But if CAPS as an institution wants to realize its stated ideal of creating an “inclusive, compassionate, affirming, and socially just environment,” it has a lot more work to do.

— Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board. This editorial was written by its editor Johnny Ren ’23, and members Catherine Healy ’22, Olivia Burdette ’22, Devan Paul ’24 and Kate Waisel ’24.



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