Beginning this semester, students affiliated with the Georgetown Scholarship Program will be able to receive all mental health services from Counseling and Psychiatric Services for free, thanks to an anonymous donation. The donation also facilitated the hiring of a new staff psychologist.
This donation should be a first step toward inspiring our university’s administration to further commit to this important service by raising an actual endowment for CAPS.
This past year, CAPS has taken great strides to improve the accessibility of its services. For a student who wishes to visit staff psychologists or partake in a psychiatric follow-up, the cost is now lowered to $10 and $15 fees respectively. Our campus culture has also become more attentive to the mental health needs of students, with the development of initiatives such as Project Lighthouse, which allows students to talk with trained peers concerning any issues they may have through an anonymous online chat service.
Even with such strides, the university can take initiative and further ensure that students have the access to mental health resources they need. In 2015 alone, CAPS received more than 10,000 student visits across all of Georgetown University’s campuses. Although recent adjustments have made the services relatively affordable, students should never fear financial difficulty when seeking to improve their mental health. This is why a CAPS endowment needs to be established.
An endowment for mental health resources is not unprecedented. In 2015, Pennsylvania State University saw increased demand for resources similar to those provided by CAPS, including psychiatric and psychological counseling. Over the course of five years, the demand for counseling on Penn State’s campus increased by 32 percent. Students then took the initiative to raise the money to establish a formal endowment used to fund facilities, the services and the staff within Penn State’s primary counseling center, while also covering the upfront cost for students. In May 2016, students raised over $400,000 to solely cover a year’s worth of costs, yet they are still actively attempting to raise enough funds to support more staff across more campuses.
Currently, Penn State is one of the only universities in the country that has set up an endowment specifically for providing mental health services and mitigating the cost burden for students. As a university that strives to improve the lives of its students, the issue of mental health on campus is salient and effects a great deal of Georgetown’s community. In this country alone, 10 percent of new college students report that they “frequently felt depressed” in their first year of college, according to the American Freshman Survey. In addition, 31 percent felt “so depressed that it was difficult to function” in the past year.
While it may be difficult to begin a new fundraising campaign specifically geared toward funding CAPS, the GSP donation shows that there are at least some individuals willing to support mental health initiatives. The recent completion of Georgetown’s 10-year capital campaign, which generated $1.67 billion, also shows the extent to which alumni can contribute to a variety of different causes. A similar, shorter-term fundraising campaign could generate the funds needed to pay for CAPS resources, mitigate the costs for students and allow for a greater number of staff to join the department in order to deal with increasing demand for services.
The numbers across our country point to a clear need for continued investment in services and departments like CAPS. The student culture on campus indicates that students care about the issue of mental health and it is time for Georgetown to institutionalize a commitment to the services that are so widely used. For students seeking help dealing with issues of mental health, finding the right services at CAPS should be a right, not just another service they pay for.