With the start of the 2020-21 school year, college students are under renewed stress, handling a return to the classroom as the country enters its seventh month wrestling with the coronavirus.
According to a recent poll published by the Jama Network, a medical journal produced by the American Medical Association, symptoms of depression have tripled compared to the pre-pandemic numbers due to stress from exposure to the virus and financial damage.
Cal State Fullerton’s Counseling and Psychological Services office, also known as CAPS, which has faced harsh criticism from students in the past, is moving online to help students from their homes.
Counseling appointments are conducted through Zoom, but if students do not have access to WiFi or a laptop, they can request a laptop or phone loan from the dean of students office.
“We shifted within a matter of a week or two to virtual services back in March,” said Dr. Jaime Sheehan, director of CAPS. “So, we are still providing individual consultations through Zoom, ongoing appointments, crisis sessions, psychiatric appointments and outreach virtual.”
Students pay a health fee of $86.81 at the start of each semester, offering enrolled students counseling and medical service with no copay.
The Associated Students government of CSUF has also put a strong emphasis on opening access for mental health services under the leadership of ASI president Marcus Reveles.
During an Academic Senate meeting last month, Reveles said bringing awareness to the Counseling and Psychological Services on campus is an important priority to him.
He said that while campaigning in many classrooms, only 25% of the students knew what the service was, or that their student fees helped fund it.
“It was alarming, but it told us where we needed to hone in on and focus on,” Reveles said. “Students, faculty and people in general are going to come out of quarantine with their physical, mental and emotional health heavily affected and impacted by COVID-19.”
Reveles said that due to the health center fee included in tuition, the counseling service is set to hire a new position that would focus on marketing. Since a lot of the outreach was done by the counselors, this did not allow for a majority of students to get help on a singular day.
During spring 2020, the service launched the You@Fullerton website, an online mental health platform with tools and resources for students.
Dr. Kevin Thomas, associate director of CAPS, said more than 17,000 students have logged onto the virtual platform.
“It has been a real asset for the university,” Dr. Thomas said.
Students are able to call the counseling service at any time of the day and talk to a licensed mental health therapist, make appointments and find emergency resources.
“We need to take care of each other,” Dr. Sheehan said. “It’s just important that we look out for each other.”
The service is available virtually and can be reached online at www.fullerton.edu/caps/ or by calling (657) 278-3040. You@Fullerton is accessible through the Counseling and Psychological Services website, at you.fullerton.edu or through the CSUF student portal.
Karina Gutierrez and Leticia Perez contributed to this article.