Over the past couple years, students have called for critical improvements to Brown’s mental health resources. UCS has been working with students and administrators to push several policy changes forward, and below is a comprehensive update on the current status of these efforts.
Student advocacy has played a central role in pushing Brown to engage with issues related to mental health. Our peers in Active Minds, Project LETS, Students for Samaritans, and the Brown Center for Students of Color (BCSC), as well as Residential Peer Leaders (RPLs), international student leaders, and countless others have done tremendous work to fight stigma surrounding this issue.
In May 2014, UCS passed a resolution calling for increased support for mental health, followed by multiple public statements and open forums in subsequent semesters. In December 2014, the University created the Mental Health Community Council (MHCC) to generate recommendations for ways to improve mental health resources at Brown. Since then, our campus has grappled with intense activism surrounding Title IX and the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP), among other issues. As a community, we’ve also experienced the devastating loss of student lives and engaged discussions of suicide at Brown, such as through the film “Help us find Sunil Tripathi.” Some of the updates below have already been announced through the Office of Campus Life and the DIAP, while others are the result of work from the MHCC and other student-administrator forums.
- Eliminating the 7-session limit at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS):
- Progress: Brown pledged in the DIAP to eliminate the 7-session limit by 2017-2018
- What’s Next? Due to employee leaves, CAPS will not be fully staffed until fall 2016 (next semester). The department will then be able to accurately determine if more staff are required to eliminate the 7-session limit while keeping the short-term psychotherapy model. This semester also saw the initiation of a search for the new Director of CAPS, who will be a crucial player in determining how the DIAP pledge is carried out.
- Reducing wait times at CAPS:
- Progress: By initiating an appointment reminder email sent to students before sessions, CAPS decreased the no-show rate for appointments by 50% this semester, which allowed unfilled appointments to be available for students on the waitlist. However, there are still many no-shows, thus wasting crucial appointment time. This semester, CAPS also instituted having a therapist available for crisis and urgent appointments. All crises were seen on same day and students with urgent issues are seen within 72 hours. The designation of “crisis” and “urgent” status is determined as the intake is scheduled by one of the therapists on staff.
- What’s Next? When CAPS returns to full-staff levels in the fall, the department will measure changes in wait times, strategize how to use all staff more effectively, and examine where there are gaps in staffing. CAPS will also change the language on the appointment reminders so that more students will call/email to cancel, and therapists’ time can be effectively utilized.
- Evening & Weekend Hours:
- Progress: After receiving an anonymous gift, CAPS piloted Saturday hours for two therapists to offer appointments to graduate and medical students beginning this past March.
- What’s Next? CAPS will evaluate the potential for expansion of Saturday hours to include undergraduates who cannot use CAPS during regular hours.
- Mental Health & Orientation:
- Progress: A re-tooled mental health workshop has been planned in collaboration with various student groups, which will be offered in a larger venue during first-year orientation.
- What’s Next? Planning is underway for the workshop to be offered again mid-semester for students unable to make the first session. Students are also continuing to work with administrators to assess the possibility of a mandatory orientation event for all new students, and will continue efforts to reach a larger student population during orientation.
- New Faculty Training:
- Progress: Training for incoming faculty members will now include specific information regarding the importance of compliance with accommodation letters from SEAS and Deans’ notes.
- What’s Next: This information will also be shared at trainings for first and second-year advisors and concentration advisors.
- A web-based tool to clarify campus resources for mental health:
- Progress: Student employees at B’Well Health Promotion are currently developing an interactive tool to clarify the relationship between the various student support resources, including CAPS, OSL, SEAS, DOC, Chaplain’s Office, B’Well Health Promotion, Health Services, and SHARE advocates.
- What’s Next: A prototype of the web tool will be made public at the beginning of next semester. The student employees will send out a survey to garner feedback on the name and location for this web-based tool.
- Student ID cards:
- Progress: CAPS is now listed on the back of all new ID cards.
- What’s Next? Contact information for the Administrator on Call, who handles crises after business hours, will be added to all new ID cards beginning fall 2017.
- Data Collection:
- Progress: CAPS moved to electronic record keeping and collecting data of the types of issues students are seeking help for.
- What’s Next? This information will be used to guide future programming at CAPS to provide more services which will reduce wait times.
Beyond continuing to make progress on the issues listed above, undergraduates on the MHCC and UCS are pushing for the following recommendations to be enacted:
- Continue hiring more diverse staff members to improve the representativeness of CAPS
- Hire additional staff in the Office of Student Life (OSL) to improve capacity for supporting students on medical leave. Currently, students on leave receive only one check-in per semester from the University.
- Pilot evening hours at CAPS, to improve the department's’ accessibility for working students, athletes, and others.
- Review DPS protocols for responding to psychiatric emergencies and improve sensitivity training, including awareness of race and gender power structures.
- Enhance support for and coordinate between peer resources including training for RPLs, Meiklejohns, and EMTs.
- Improve transparency of the medical leave process for undergraduate and graduate students by clarifying communications during the reapplication process.
- Supplement advising upon return from medical leave by bolstering the Leavetaking Coordinator program through the CRC and publicizing the Back at Brown support group.
- Standardize initial communications from CAPS to improve intake experience, better identify students in crisis, and reduce the burden on students to define their own need.
- Strengthen internal consistency and coordination between offices in order to reduce student shuffling between the various administrative support services.
If you have any additional action items or feedback, please submit them here. While the implementation of these efforts remains in progress, we hope this communication provides transparency in ongoing initiatives to improve mental health care at Brown. In July, Brown’s new Vice President for Campus Life, Eric Estes, will begin work on campus. Searches for a new Director of Health Promotion and Director of CAPS are ongoing. As these positions are filled, we hope you’ll join us in pushing them to further bolster support for mental wellness at Brown.
Your MHCC Undergraduate Representatives:
Sazzy Gourley ‘16
Maggie Jordan ‘16
Malana Krongelb ‘18
Dolma Ombadykow ‘17
In addition to these updates, we wanted to include a brief announcement on improving the accessibility of our physical campus:
Progress: This summer, renovations will be made to the Campus Center terrace (above Faunce steps) and to replace the elevator in Health Services. The Grad Center Bar (GCB) was recently made accessible via Power St., and a gender inclusive restroom was also added.
What’s Next? The Provost has committed to a long-term renovation for Wilson Hall, timeline TBD.