UMass needs to improve CCPH

By Gabby Vacarelo

(Robert Rigo/ Daily Collegian)
(Robert Rigo/ Daily Collegian)

In recent years, the amount of college students facing mental health issues, primarily depression and anxiety, has increased. College is a stressful time; there’s no denying that. With constant pressure to get the best possible grades in order to find the best paying job in the future, to always be networking and making connections and to have an active social life, many students may need to reach out for help at some point. Unfortunately, many universities don’t have established mental health centers. Here at the University of Massachusetts, students are lucky to have the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health.

I believe the CCPH really does have the students’ best intentions at heart, though I might be a little too optimistic. I think the real issue is that UMass doesn’t appear to support the CCPH in the way it should. The department is a lot smaller than it could be and doesn’t seem to receive the resources it needs to support this large community of students. In fact, the CCPH’s website specifically states that it “does not have the capacity to manage chronic conditions requiring intensive or frequent contacts.”

Therefore, a student’s only option for mental health services on campus is only short-term; otherwise, it’s best to venture into the Amherst community. If you decide, though, that you want to make an appointment at the counseling center, you must first attend a screening lasting about 10 to 15 minutes so that the CCPH team can determine your needs. Following that screening, you can receive four complimentary visits. These visits aren’t free in actuality – the Student Health Fee that everyone on campus is required to pay covers them. After the four appointments, your insurance will begin to be billed.

Sadly, I don’t think the four initial visits before you must begin co-paying through your insurance provider are particularly helpful. As much as the stigma surrounding mental illnesses has been reduced substantially, it still exists. Some individuals may not be ready to share the truth about themselves with their parents, and this is a necessity if you are still on your parents’ insurance plan. Having only four visits forces students to either suffer alone and in silence or have an uncomfortable conversation they may not be ready for. In addition, depending on the co-pay, counseling sessions might not be affordable for students either at the CCPH or at a psychiatrist in town. College is already expensive enough without the need to pay for counseling as well.

Some students just need someone who will listen and give constructive advice. It would be nice to have access to this type of counseling at any time, without having to worry about inconvenient appointment times, impersonal screening processes and pesky co-pays. Mental illnesses are just as valid as any physical disease and they should be treated as such.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that the CCPH is doing incredibly important work here at the University. I would love to one day be a part of what they do there.  My criticism is more about UMass in general. Mental health should not and cannot be taken lightly. If we want to have a happy, healthy community on campus, more resources should go toward expanding and improving the CCPH and the services it provides.

Gabby Vacarelo is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]