Campus mental health portal proposal could bolster current resources

CAMPUS ISSUES: A centralized portal seems promising, but UC Berkeley should do its research before proceeding.

Illustration of a person in a therapy chair with a computer
Emily Bi/Senior Staff

At a school as notoriously stress-ridden as UC Berkeley, it’s critical that campus administration take meticulous steps to address mental health issues. Campus’s newest potential solution — an online portal — seems to be the first real effort to combat the problem at scale.

The portal is supposed to be modeled after a program at UCLA called the Screening and Treatment for Anxiety and Depression Program, which has a mental health tracker and provides access to online therapy. The program also connects students with personalized treatment, should they feel the need to consult in-person with a therapist. If campus were to pilot something like this, it would significantly improve access to mental health services on campus. 

Students have been lamenting the Tang Center’s inadequate mental health support for years. Currently, the process just to get an appointment with a counselor is convoluted and counterintuitive. Students seeking mental health treatment must have a phone screening, then a triage and are eventually matched with a counselor. The process can take weeks at a time, and the questions asked during the triage appointment can be uncomfortable for students. Giving students a mental health service that they can access from the comfort of their own home would be consoling to those who may not want to attend in-person therapy. 

Granted, campus occupation is bursting at the seams. There are currently more than 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students on campus, a good percentage of whom might need access to mental health resources at some point in their academic career. While the Tang Center ought to reevaluate its triage process, it’s fair to say that it simply doesn’t have the resources to cater to everyone individually.

An online portal is a great way to streamline the initial screening steps, but that doesn’t change the fact that different mental health issues require different methods of treatment. For certain illnesses, in-person therapy is most effective. And on this campus, it’s tempting to turn to data points for clarity in solving complex problems, but mental health isn’t something that we can necessarily use an algorithm for. It’s imperative that UC Berkeley equally focuses on hiring additional counselors and therapists through University Health Services, as Chancellor Carol Christ stated she plans to do.

Before proceeding with the portal, campus administrators should make a concerted effort to determine what would work best for our student body. UC Berkeley has a very different academic and cultural environment compared to other universities — what works elsewhere might not be the most effective here. It’s heartening that Chancellor Christ actively reached out to students in the ASUC for input before implementing the portal, but administrators must continue to include students in the conversation moving forward. 

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2019 opinion editor, Revati Thatte.