At vigil, students discuss their experiences with mental health

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - 1:01am

A vigil held Tuesday evening on the Diag aimed to provide students with a forum to talk about how mental health is handled on campus.

About 15 students gathered in front of Hatcher Graduate Library for the vigil in response to the death of a student Monday night.

Word of the vigil was spread mainly through the anonymous social media app Yik Yak, which students on campus use frequently for everything from questions about campus life to posts about subjects of mental health.  

At Tuesday’s vigil, students shared experiences of their own experiences with mental health, along with concerns over the stigma on campus surrounding depression and self-harm.

A common theme among students at the vigil was frustration with University of Michigan’s Counseling and Psychological Services, the on-campus resource for students seeking counseling services for anxiety and depression, as well as other mental health crises.

Engineering sophomore Jacqueline Malkin described a six-week waiting process from the time of her initial move to seek assistance to her first counseling appointment.

“Between when I signed the papers and when I got my initial consultation, it was three weeks,” Malkin said. “I didn’t get to see my psychologist for weekly counseling … for six weeks after I signed papers.”

LSA sophomore Karly Carson also expressed frustration with how her CAPS counselor helped her through her anxiety.

“She told me I had to stop thinking that way,” Carson said. “She told me, ‘You’re stressed out, we’re all stressed out, you need to get over it,’ basically.”

She added that University Health Service ultimately provided more assistance.

“I also used UHS, and they were a lot more helpful to me, as far as medication goes,” Carson said. “The psychologist I saw was very helpful. She helped me learn to … basically meditate, and just to calm down.”

1,130 individuals had signed an online petition as of Wednesday morning calling on the University to to increase mental health service.

Many students had suggestions during the vigil for alternatives to address campus mental health besides services like CAPS and UHS. Liz Zhang, Social Work and Public Health graduate student, said she believes the answer lies with the student body.

“CAPS can’t be the only answer. It is like the formal way of thinking about mental health,” Zhang said. “Overall, change needs to happen bottom-up, grassroots, to really change the culture.”

Engineering sophomore Michael Oshatz echoed those sentiments.

“We need a culture here of caring,” Oshatz said. “We really need to stop being cutthroat with each other. We need to really realize that this is a huge university — people get lonely. It’s not an easy thing to do to change a culture like that, but it’s the only thing we can do, I think, is to change the way we look at each other.”

Dr. Todd Sevig, director of CAPS, wrote in an e-mail the Mental Health Service held extra hours Tuesday.

“Whenever a student dies, it's such a great loss to our community, and we need to support each other in extra ways,” Sevig wrote. “CAPS had additional walk in crisis counselors available today, and we are in the process of setting group support with Residence Education staff. We also have been consulting with others who are supporting students, including many staff, and fellow students. We want to do everything we can to fully enact our community of caring.”

CAPS is located on the 3rd floor of the Michigan Union, and is open to students from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays. The urgent/crisis services are available 24/7 at 734-764-8312 (press 0). The website also directs students in need of immediate assistance to UM Psychiatric Emergency Services’ 24-hour helpline at 734-936-5900. CAPS further stresses that students in need of immediate assistance should call 911 or visit their local emergency room. Student leaders have also created the e-mail address studentsupport@umich.edu, which students can e-mail to access help and information about mental health.