UC Berkeley considering online portal tracking student mental health

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UC Berkeley is considering piloting an online portal for students to track their mental health, similar to a UCLA program branded as the Screening and Treatment for Anxiety and Depression Program, or STAND Program, launched in 2018.

ASUC Senator Derek Imai asked Chancellor Carol Christ about increasing mental health services alongside an increasing student body at Wednesday’s ASUC meeting. Christ replied by saying that the campus has plans to hire more mental health counselors and potentially test the online portal.

In 2017, UCLA first piloted what was later rebranded as the STAND Program. Since then, UCLA students have had free access to online therapy, personalized treatment, and a tracking system to help students monitor and assess their symptoms. UC Berkeley is now looking to roll out a similar online tool to complement other resources already available for students on campus, according to University Health Services spokesperson Tami Cate.

“UC Berkeley has experienced a growing demand for mental health and basic needs services over the last several years,” Cate said in an email. “As a response, campus administrators and student leadership groups have organized to create new services and resources available to students.”

The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors conducted a global survey throughout the 2015-16 academic year to track college students’ mental health. The survey found that anxiety is the “most predominant and increasing” concern among college students seeking counseling services, followed by depression.

Imai ran his senate campaign last year on a platform surrounding mental health. He said the way the campus administration deals with student mental health is generally “really opaque.”

“It’s this very visible, invisible cloud that I just can’t stand,” Imai said. “Sometimes (Tang Center) counseling appointments take up to two weeks to schedule with a person, and that’s two weeks too long.”

A Goldman School of Public Policy study, published last April, reported that the percentage of UC students reporting anxiety disorder diagnosis or treatment nearly tripled in eight years from 6.3 percent in 2008 to 15.4 percent in 2016.

This is lower than the national average for all college students, which sat at 20 percent in 2016, according to the study. However the diversity within the UC student body is likely the factor accounting for this difference. Students of color are about half as likely to report an anxiety disorder diagnosis or treatment in comparison with white students, according to data from the National College Health Assessment.

Imai said he is skeptical of a program such as the STAND Program, because he questions how well an online system could accurately address social determinants of health, including identity.

“They say it’s personalized, but if identity isn’t in that conversation, how is this at all personalized?” Imai said. “But I do appreciate any effort with wholehearted intention to help other people with (their) mental health.”

Rachel Barber is the lead student life reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @rachelbarber_.