Inpatient care for the campus community: A look at Sutter Health’s Herrick Campus

Ariel Hayat/File

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Through the doors, up the elevator and down the fourth-floor hallway lies a Sutter Health Herrick Campus unit dedicated to assisting those who require psychiatric help. Every year, about 80 UC Berkeley students and faculty members seek treatment for a variety of psychiatric disorders at the center, located at 2001 Dwight Way.

Many campus students seek psychiatric treatment in Berkeley each year. Patients suffer from a variety of mental illnesses, ranging from depression — for which patients typically stay at most three to five days — to eating disorders, which require multiple-week stays.

Students who suffer from psychiatric illnesses can voluntarily seek hospitalization at Sutter Health’s Herrick Campus. When students show signs of suicidal tendencies or psychotic episodes, however, they can be admitted involuntarily.

“The main focus is getting people to be safe enough to get them to a lower level of care,” said Nancy Maguire, a supervising psychologist at Sutter Health’s Herrick Campus, about its inpatient services.

Sam Ku, the president of the campus chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, said involuntary hospitalization is often pursued when a mental health provider believes a student is a danger to themselves.

Treatment plans and experiences of those hospitalized vary greatly depending on the hospital they go to, according to Ku. Ku added that they sought treatment for themself at a county hospital. Their experience, however, was “really terrible.” According to Ku, the hospital that treated them was ill-equipped to properly care for students with certain conditions, in part because of insufficient funding.

On campus, students will often go to the Tang Center to seek initial help, according to Ku. The Tang Center can then refer students to other hospitals, including Sutter Health’s Herrick Campus, depending on the type and severity of their condition.

While Sutter Health’s Herrick Campus provides myriad services to students who suffer from psychiatric disorders, its services focus primarily on crisis intervention.

Its inpatient service treatment plans include group sessions and individual cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps patients address negative thought patterns. Patients are also seen by a psychiatrist on a daily basis and have access to alternative therapies, including music therapy.

While many are assisted in inpatient services, the majority of campus students admitted are part of he outpatient program, designed to accommodate students’ and workers’ schedules. Within outpatient services, patients have access to more specific programs, including one for those who suffer from eating disorders.

According to Ku, the transition from being in the hospital to returning to class can be difficult. Ku said that because classes are large, classmates are unlikely to notice that someone has been absent for a period of time.

Although the campus offers many services to help students transition from being hospitalized to being back in class, Ku said many students still struggle to find support once they return to campus, especially because UC Berkeley is such a large university. They added that services can be difficult to access.

“It just causes stresses that students can’t really afford to have,” Ku said.

In order to support students with mental illnesses, NAMI offers a buddy system to its members, so everyone involved always has someone they can turn to if they need anything.

NAMI, along with the student organization You Mean More, is committed to providing a safe space for students who suffer from mental illness in addition to reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“We really enjoy working with the (campus) community, and we have a really good relationship with the Tang Center,” Maguire said. “We really try to work together to collaborate to provide the best services possible to students.”

Contact Mallika Seshadri at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SeshadriMallika.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that UC Berkeley students who suffer from psychiatric illnesses can voluntarily seek hospitalization in Berkeley at Sutter Health’s Los Altos Center. In fact, they can seek hospitalization in Berkeley at Sutter Health’s Herrick Campus.

A previous version of this article used an incorrect pronoun to refer to Sam Ku.