How to maximize campus health resources

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Mental health issues among UC Berkeley students have come to the forefront of campus discussion in recent years.

A recent study revealed data that depression afflicts between 42 and 48 percent of UC Berkeley science, technology, engineering and math doctoral students. Additionally, a recent survey found that 19 percent of students in the UC system met or exceeded the established threshold for probable psychological distress during the 30 days prior to the survey.

Stress, unfortunately, will be part of your experience at UC Berkeley. In order to help foster a healthy body and mind, however, you might look for help from several campus-provided mental health services.

Dealing with everyday challenges

As college life presents many challenges, knowing where to go for help is important.

If you’re ever having a health issue, the best first step is calling the advice nurse, an option both during and after hours. The nurse will then inform you of possible next steps. But if you’re facing an urgent mental health issue, and it’s a weekday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., you can go to the Tang Center’s counseling center without an appointment.

The first five counseling appointments of the year are free and should be used if a student ever starts feeling overwhelmed. Additional appointments, up to eight, cost $82.50 per session without the campus Student Health Insurance Plan and $15 per session with SHIP. If a student has used all eight of his or her Tang Center counseling services, the counselors can refer him to outside help that specializes in long-term services, with options covered either by SHIP or your own insurance plan.

If a student experiences ongoing stress or would like preventative assistance, the Tang Center also offers workshops and support groups.

Mental health tips from a Tang Center psychologist

As emphasized by campus health experts, preventative care in college is crucial.  According to Aaron Cohen, a psychologist at the Tang Center, the most important preventative mechanism for incoming freshman and transfer students is building up resilience by staying engaged both academically and socially so that normal stress levels do not turn into depression or anxiety.

As the Tang Center offers only short-term counseling opportunities, Cohen suggests that incoming students with a history of long-term counseling or mental illness make appointments as soon as they arrive so that counselors can recommend long-term off-campus counseling or other help for the student. Cohen tells students to treat mental health like physical health, meaning they can go in for a counseling session for mental check-ups in the same way one would go to the doctor for a lingering cold.

Wellness referendum and other changes

Beyond the Tang Center, other campus services related to mental health include the office of the confidential care advocate for students affected by sexual or gendered crime.

Hired in November, the confidential advocate discusses with sexual assault survivors all of their options and is not obligated to file criminal reports based on these conversations. The implementation of this position follows the beginning of a federal investigation in March 2014 into allegations that the campus had mishandled reports of sexual assault.

Additional mental health services may arrive within the next year. In spring, students passed the wellness referendum, a $146 semesterly fee aiming to improve campus health care.

The referendum calls for improvements in student health services, including extended hours for the Tang Center, more mental health professionals in clinics, more wellness groups with a focus on underserved groups and more programs preventing sexual and gendered violence, among other services. The specific changes that the referendum fee will bring about will be determined once the committee implementing the changes begins meeting June 1.

Pressly Pratt is the blog editor. Contact her at [email protected].