Of body and mind

Mental illnesses should be treated the same as physical illnesses

In January of this year, Yale student Rachel Williams published a piece in the Yale Daily News about how she severely harmed herself, went to a psychiatric hospital and was then told to leave the university. In March, The Daily Pennsylvanian published a story about Carissa Lundquist, a student who checked herself into a hospital after her complaint of sexual assault was dismissed due to lack of evidence. Carissa’s enrollment was then delayed when she came back for her final semester; the university told her she must be psychiatrically evaluated, or leave.

Both Yale and the University of Pennsylvania offer free psychological counseling services, like the University. But these aforementioned cases were mishandled not because of a lack of available services, but rather because the universities treated mental health conditions as liabilities.

Mental illnesses still are not treated the same as physical illnesses. Granted they are different, in that different health care professionals handle each. As human beings, there is no reason to treat people with mental health disorders differently than we treat people with physical disorders. Universities, when thinking about the services they provide, need to be in accordance with this mindset.

As part of our student fees, University students are able to make appointments at the Elson Student Health Center and be examined by a doctor with no additional charge, and there is no limit on the number of times a student can make appointments. Counseling and Psychological Services is a subset of the Department of Student Health. CAPS uses a “brief therapy” approach to help students, setting a limit of 10 visits for a course of psychotherapy. According to the CAPS webpage, this limit is set so that they can see as many students as possible. Though exceptions are made if students do not have the financial resources to go to a therapist outside Student Health, the webpage states “exceptions must be limited in order for us to be responsive to the larger university community.”

If the need of university community is so much “larger” than the students CAPS currently sees, why do they not have more resources to accommodate everyone without setting a limit on the number of sessions? A student would not be told he could only see a doctor at Student Health only 10 times before he must be referred to a private practitioner.

In our previous editorial on trigger warnings, we argued students with post-trauma disorders should be accommodated, just as students with physical disabilities would be accommodated in class. Many people with mental impairments feel as though the disabilities movement has left them out because sometimes their disabilities have no visible manifestation, and are therefore overlooked, or are less sympathetic.

The call to “reverse stereotypes” or “change our mindsets” is trite at this point, but there isn’t a better way to say it. Such movements begin with individuals who are willing to be trendsetters — who support instead of criticize, and accept instead of alienate. Let’s all be trendsetters, because even one case like the ones mentioned at the beginning of this editorial is too many.

Published April 24, 2014 in Opinion

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