Prioritizing mental health
A few weeks ago, Public Safety and the Orange Police Department responded to an incident at Chapman’s law school involving a student who experienced an alleged mental breakdown. This is not the first time an incident like this has occurred, Public Safety officers said.
Graduate students at Chapman are not given access to the mental health facilities unless they pay to opt into the program. Under the demanding nature of graduate school, this is a lack of mental health care in an environment where it may be most needed. Especially in a time when our country is reeling from mass shootings, being attentive to the mental health of all our students is imperative. If this student had a weapon on him at the time of his breakdown, this could have been a different story.
Even if graduate students had universal access to the mental health services undergraduates have, it still wouldn’t be enough. Severely understaffed and underfunded, the department has only three counselors who are expected to serve a growing population of students currently over 5,000. Dr. Jeanne Walker, director of the Student Psychological Counseling Services, reported that her staff is already “maxed out” and the service had to turn away students last semester. This egregious deficiency in resources is reflective of Chapman’s lack of emphasis on mental health. Outside of orientation week, the Student Psychological Counseling Services and other mental health facilities remain largely unmentioned.
We need to bring mental health out of the underfunded closet. The problem lies not only with money, but also with the culture surrounding mental health. Mental illness is too often seen as a taboo. It is misunderstood and rarely discussed honestly. Chapman is perpetuating that notion through minimal discussion or emphasis on mental health, and lacking services in a school that can afford dormitories with flat-screen TVs.
Chapman has big plans for a grand future, but some attention needs to be paid to the basics. Before we focus on expanding our film school or opening a financial center, shouldn’t we ensure student health is a priority? Our country is slowly realizing how little attention it pays to those in need of mental services, and Chapman needs to realize it too.
Chapman needs to take on the burden of reaching out to those who may be reticent, but know they need help. Unfortunately, in an environment where one’s mental health can be especially vulnerable, Chapman treats the student psychological services as more of an afterthought than a priority.
Graduate students deserve access to the psychological services their school offers, and should not be expected, between dissertations and bar exams, to find help on their own. All Chapman students, whether graduate or undergraduate, deserve better care. When the Student Psychological Counseling Services is forced to turn students away, its resources are clearly not enough for our student body. As long as the Chapman administration does nothing to increase access to these services, they are ignoring a problem that will only get bigger with each incoming class.