This is an opinion article. Any views expressed belong solely to the author and are not representative of The Cluster.
College marks a huge transitional period for young adults as they transition to formal adulthood. The process can be treacherous, difficult and extremely stressful at times. It is imperative that students take care of themselves and their mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, in the 2020-2021 academic year, over 60% of the college students interviewed from about 370 schools met the criteria for having at least one mental health issue. Even prior to the pandemic, schools were dealing with an increase in demand for mental health services that exceeded the capacity of providers. Mercer is no different.
Like many other schools, Mercer offers counseling and psychological services to students in need, but the school still struggles to meet the needs of its students. Mercer Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) has a total of three therapists and an intern currently working to serve a student body of over 4,000 students. This can lead to incredibly long wait times for appointments. It can also be challenging to get an appointment in the first place. One student reported waiting over two weeks before her first appointment, just for it to be canceled the day of.
“I felt hopeless. It felt like no one wanted to listen to me,” Alexis Oladipo ’25 said. “I never utilized CAPS and its services again because of it.”
Long wait times and the limited number of counselors can deter students from wanting to seek out the help they need.
Additionally, there are only two counselors of color. Although it is a predominantly white institution, Mercer has a relatively diverse student body. Having a counselor who looks like you and has similar experiences to you can create a more understanding environment for students of color. I have personal experience with this. I was seeing Amanda, one of the counselors, for a few months in the spring semester of my freshman year. She was the first counselor I had seen in years after bad experiences with other counselors in my life. I felt comfortable opening up to her rather quickly as she came from a similar background as me. After several sessions, it felt we were making progress, but she got offered another job and consequently had to leave Mercer. Since her departure, I do not really feel comfortable reaching out to anyone else when I am having a difficult time.
Despite the problems CAPS may have, they are making an effort to improve itself with an initiative called Same Day Solution Sessions. These sessions offer 30-minute, same-day counseling sessions in which students can receive counseling regarding more urgent matters. Although this is a start, there are only two sessions available per day. If a student wishes to get help after both slots are filled, they just have to wait. This issue further highlights the difficulty of getting an appointment and the lack of appointments available.
“I think it’s a great idea in theory, but I can’t really plan emergencies around two 30-minute time slots,” Keridah Bouadou ‘25 said. “When my schedule is incredibly hectic, it's hard to find time to eat, let alone wait to set up an appointment. I usually just push through my weeks even when I know I should talk to someone (…) I just don’t want to go through that hassle.”
The concept of Same Day Solution Sessions is great as it allows students to expedite the process of getting to speak with a CAPS counselor. However, the frequency and availability of these sessions ultimately defeat the purpose of them.
The limited resources at CAPS make it difficult for much of the student body to receive the help they need. By hiring more staff, this problem could be fixed. Providing students with an adequate number of counselors as well as a wide variety of counselors from different backgrounds can help students feel more comfortable reaching out and allow them to receive aid in a more timely manner.
Programs such as the Same Day Solution Sessions were implemented to help bridge this disconnect between students and counselors, however, it only works to perpetuate the same issues students were facing before. As CAPS continues to better its services, hopefully, there will be a positive change.