AS The Office of the President hosts the Mental Health Town Hall

UC Santa Barbara’s Associated Students Office of the President hosted a Mental Health Town Hall on January 23rd to give students an opportunity to engage with mental health professionals on campus and voice their concerns about mental health resources on campus.

Panelists were first asked to define mental health and its meaning. Emmett Ruland/Daily Nexus

The town hall was held in the Corwin Pavilion and hosted panelists from Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS), Health and Wellness, Campus Advocacy, Resources & Education (CARE), Student Health Service, and AS President Gurleen Pabla.

“Our generation continues to destigmatize conversations around mental health, and this event is further proof of that,” said Pablo, opening the town hall. “I just want you all to know that mental health resources are a necessity for me and our campus will continue to work to ensure that this need can be met for all students.”

Moderators from the AS President’s Office asked panelists questions that were submitted via a pre-event survey, and then attendees broke into focus groups to discuss mental health issues and resources with specific panelists.

Panelists were first asked to define mental health and its meaning.

“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, physical as well as social well-being. It affects the way we think, feel and act. It also helps us determine how we deal with stress and adversity, how we relate to others and make choices,” CAPS Director Brian Olowude said.

Olowude added that identity and family history also contribute to individual experiences of mental health.

“Contributors to mental health: cultural background, life experiences such as trauma or abuse, systemic racism and treatment bias, family history of mental health problems, generational trauma, and stigma around seeking mental health,” he continued. .

Olowude noted in response to a later question that UCSB’s diverse CAPS staff is uniquely suited to address the mental health needs of students, and although the structure of the CAPS program is primarily for short-term therapeutic needs, the organization works to accommodate students with external therapists and provide short-term consultations.

“There are some legitimate logistical issues and just being able to serve as many students as possible — you can’t see them in the long term,” CAPS Assistant Clinical Director Janet Ossimo said when asked why CAPS can’t provide long-term term therapy.

When panelists were asked about the stigma of mental health, UCSB Alcohol and Drug Program Director Jackie Kurta said that stigma is a particularly relevant issue for substance use disorders.

“There is still a stigma around seeking help for substance use concerns. And just a reminder to all of you that substance use disorders are mental health disorders. In the classification of mental disorders, substance use disorders are a subset of that,” she said. “So many students who struggle with alcohol or other drug use often have co-occurring concerns about depressive symptoms or anxiety about some trauma or other mental health issues.”

Kurta encouraged students facing substance use problems to seek help through the school’s program, which is about treatment, not punishment, she said. She then added, during a later question, that students should take advantage of UCSB’s free services.

“We all know that once we leave the UC Santa Barbara environment, not all of the services you may seek for mental health support will be free. So we always want to encourage students to take advantage of the opportunity you have here on campus,” she said.

Brianna Miller, director of CARE, answered the group’s final question — which aspect of campus mental health outreach is most important — by stating that students are an invaluable resource.

“The most valuable resource we have is our student officers, for being in the student communities, running events and programming … and helping to inform our curriculum to make sure that the content and things that we deliver , resonate with students and are relevant,” Miller said.

A version of this article appeared on page 4 of the January 26, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.

Holly Rush

Holly Rush (she/her) is the lead news editor for the 2022-23 school year. Rush previously served as the university news editor and co-lead news editor for the 2020-21 school year. You can reach her at [email protected] com or [email protected]

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