I’m stressed. Odds are, you’re stressed too. College is the first time many of us leave our homes for an extended period of time. We leave behind friends, family and significant others.
Move-in day barely ends before the new students dive headfirst into classes and possibly one-too-many extracurricular activities.
We form new relationships while fighting to preserve the old ones: all on an empty stomach.
Even with the best of time-management skills, college life can be overwhelming. We may be able to relieve stress by binge-watching “New Girl” and “Doctor Who” (what, just me?). Unfortunately, these tactics only treat the symptoms and don’t even address more pressing issues than stress.
For those who need more than a night of wearing sweatpants and a cookie-monster approach to desserts, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers free counseling sessions to Mercer students.
“Between the number of students that come to the CAPS office for services, participate in a CAPS program or are involved with a CAPS initiative, we potentially impact every student,” said Assistant Director of CAPS, Brent Meyer.
Meyer is one of two licensed therapists on site at CAPS, the other being Director Emily Piassick. Two more graduate-level clinical interns work part time at CAPS as counselors.
The counselors of CAPS try to work with students to identify the source of problems by listening to students and suggesting action to help improve negative situations. Two Mercer students shared their CAPS experiences with The Cluster on the condition of anonymity; the first chose to use the pseudonym “Amy Pond.”
“I was having conflicts in certain personal relationships and I was angry and I wanted to know if my feelings were justified,” said Pond. “I got angry and kind of snapped at a person. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t as crazy as I thought.”
The second student, chose to use the pseudonym “Jessica Day.” Day was beaten by home invaders in her off-campus house. She said she was visited by a CAPS representative while recovering in the hospital after the attack. Following the recommendation of her professors, she scheduled an appointment with CAPS the day after her release from the hospital.
“Students come to seek CAPS services for a variety of areas,” said Meyer.
The counselors of CAPS are working to dispel the taboos associated with seeking outside help for a personal problem. Seeing a counselor is not an admission of a broken mental state, just acknowledgement of a broken situation.”
“I felt like I needed to (go earlier), but was too afraid to go. I could have resolved it much more quickly,” said Pond.
Day said she was initially self conscious about being seen going into CAPS.
“Something terrible happened to me, why am I embarrassed?” said Day. She said she reevaluated her position toward CAPS.
“Stigma related to mental health and mental illness is persistent in all communities. CAPS strives to break down those barriers so that students feel comfortable when seeking our services,” said Meyer.
Pond said it was much easier to set up an appointment than she thought it would be. She called on a weekend and by business hours Monday, she had an appointment scheduled.
“The first session was just me telling the story. (The Counselor) posed a lot of questions and let me do the talking,” said Pond.
“We treat all students with dignity and respect and understand that it is difficult at times to initiate that first phone call to seek services, ” said Meyer.
Meyer said that the therapists at CAPS are trained in both psychology and counseling; they can address student concerns from a different perspective than other individuals in a student’s life.
“Students appreciate being able to talk to someone that is apart from their everyday life and activities,” said Meyer.
Together, Pond and her counselor concluded that Pond was in a bad situation and her feelings were appropriate given the circumstances.
“Getting that confirmation made me feel more empowered,” said Pond.
Day said she was able to “normalize” the experience of being attacked after her first two sessions with CAPS.
“It’s a free service, why not take advantage of it?” said Day.
CAPS is located behind Mery Erin Porter (MEP) residence hall. For more information go to studentaffairs.mercer.edu/counseling or call (478) 301-2862.