Stanford is considered the most stressed college campus in America, according to TheDailyBeast.com’s April 2010 study of U.S. News and World Report’s top 50 American universities. The site analyzed data and the results weighted across five categories: total costs, academic competitiveness, acceptance rate, engineering program rank, and campus crime.
Keith Anderson, chairman of best practices at the American College Health Association, deemed these categories the most stressful aspects of university life. In the article, he noted that a campus with “a student body that is in general more the type-A characteristic type of students” will tend to have higher stress levels. However, Stanford appears to do everything in its power to keep students happy and healthy. With an array of resources available on campus, students are able to access mental health services including evaluation and treatment free of charge.
Some of the options intended to serve students include Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), the Bridge, and the Wellness Room. Students reach out to these services for help with a wide range of issues, including stress, relationship problems, depression, and anxiety.
CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services)
CAPS is the professionally-run option for undergraduate and graduate students. According to CAPS Director Ronald Albucher, “CAPS is a resource for students, both graduate and undergraduate, for counseling and mental health services in a broad spectrum.”
A student can make an appointment online or in person on the second floor of Vaden Health Center. A staff member will walk the student through how to receive care.
For students who have been through the CAPS process, responses vary but are generally positive.
Akwasi Abrefah ’12, a student who has utilized CAPS, remarked, “When the problems are more serious, it’s good to have a resource of somebody who is specialized and can help you decide how to best attend to your needs.”
To Abrefah, the goal of CAPS is “to improve general social health at Stanford.” He believed that, for the most part, the center has been successful in pursuing that goal. Abrefah noted that CAPS works to get students “to be more willing to talk about these things at Stanford,” and that “psychological health is stigmatized, which is unfortunate.”
“We have ongoing quality assessment measures, which include things like satisfaction surveys,” said Albucher. CAPS clinicians evaluates the surveys and uses the results to improve patients’ future satisfaction.
“In general, our rates of satisfaction [are] in the 80-100 percent range depending on which question is asked and how the question is asked,” he added. Additionally, CAPS also encourages individuals who negative experiences with the center to share feedback to help improve the program for others.
Students who attend CAPS sessions come from a variety of backgrounds and are often dealing with a wide range of personal issues. According to Albucher, “We see a pretty broad spectrum of types of needs. Probably our most common need is counseling around relationship issues.”
Albucher added, “We certainly see a lot of depression and anxiety symptoms. We [also] see students having self esteem issues.”
In order to visit CAPS, students need not fit a specific profile. Any personal issue, no matter how miniscule it may seem, can be addressed by visiting CAPS.
If CAPS seems a bit too daunting, there are more discreet ways for students to address there mental health concerns. The Bridge 24/7 Peer Counseling and Support Center is another option available to students. It is located across from the Stanford Faculty club at 581 Capistrano Way
The Bridge is entirely student run and available anytime by phone and from 9am to 12am for drop in visits.
The Bridge’s services are not limited to Stanford students. Callers need not be affiliated with the university, located on campus, or even located in the state.
Training to become a student counselor is a fairly straightforward process. Bridge Counselor-in-Training, Bekah Obi ‘14, said that she is currently enrolled in Education 193A in order to become a peer counselor.
“The purpose of the 193A class is to instill the person who takes the class with the core values of being a peer counseling,” Obi commented. This includes “grief counseling, counseling people who are contemplating suicide, [and] counseling people who are just overwhelmed with homework.”
“[For] anything you need, you can call the number and they’ll help you out with it,” said Obi. “Peer counselors are good to talk to without it feeling as scary as going to a psychiatrist.”
The Wellness Room
****Easily the less formal than CAPS and the Bridge, the ASSU-runWellness Room is located towards the back of Old Union in Room 120. It houses bean bag chair and activities such as board games and painting. According to its website, the Wellness Room is “dedicated to helping students learn more about and to practice living healthier, less-stressed, and more balanced lives.”
The Wellness Room site also notes that the room has hosted yoga and meditation workshops, board game nights, volunteer events; it plans to host massage workshops and mindfulness classes.Regarding student-run health initiatives on campus like the Wellness Room, Albucher said, “I think they are all terrific in part because they’re student led. I think that in itself helps to break down barriers to accessing information and care.”
When considering where to start when seeking care, students should consider the severity of their individual issues. But according to Albucher, any of the options will suffice as a starting point. “Any point of entry into the system is a good point,” said Albucher.
“Where is the cut-off for stress that you would want somebody going to the Bridge or Wellness Room for, verses the cut-off for people that should come into CAPS? It’s hard to draw that line sometimes,” he added.