Student use of CAPS increases

Christine Farolan, Copy Chief

The number of students using Counseling and Psychological Services has increased by about 22 percent compared to Fall Quarter last year.

About 1,250 students have used CAPS services so far this year, executive director John Dunkle said.

Dunkle is part of a team currently working on a campus-wide survey looking at how CAPS is addressing mental health and suicide prevention as part of the Jed and Clinton Health Matters Campus Program. The program, which Northwestern signed onto in October, aims to prevent suicide and fatal drug overdose on college campuses nationwide.

“Once we complete (the survey), it will give us guidance on where we’re doing well and where we need to think about doing more,” Dunkle said.

CAPS is also expanding its existing Let’s Talk initiative, which allows students to come in for informal conversation and advice regarding any concern, be it social, academic or otherwise. There are currently three separate drop-in times when students can go to locations such as the International Office or the Multicultural Student Affairs office for this service, but new weekly times will be added, including one hosted by Dunkle at Norris University Center.

With three recent hires from the last year and a half now in place, CAPS is sustaining its programming for this academic year, including the second annual Essential NU on mental health during Wildcat Welcome and the continuation of the QPR Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Training Program. Henry Perkins, coordinator of CAPS’ Stress Management Clinic, noted the success of the ENU in increasing CAPS’ visibility.

“We’re really enthused about being able to make the entire class aware of our services and some of the normal strains and struggles that students encounter in adjusting to the University,” Perkins said.

Last academic year, the Stress Management Clinic added the Enhancing Attention through Mindfulness workshop to its services in collaboration with AccessibleNU, Perkins said. Both this and the Introduction to Mindfulness workshop, which has been running for five years, aim to help students improve their focus and will continue this year.

“One of the frequent issues that Northwestern students are presented with has to do with concentration and specifically being able to focus and pay attention,” Perkins said.

Despite the clinics being geared toward individuals with attention deficit disorder, Perkins emphasized their usefulness for all students.

These and other services through CAPS have reached more students due to continued exposure, Dunkle said.

“I think the exciting thing is a lot of our outreach-type of programming — like our Essential NU on Mental Health, our QPR, our Let’s Talk — is working because it’s leading to increases in numbers of students who come in to reach out to services at our center,” Dunkle said. “So I think that is something that’s good to know, that our outreach is really working.”

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