Nick Vasquez | The Poly Post

Assessing digital accessibility for mental health support at CPP

By Betti Halsell, Jan. 30, 2024

Many college students are experiencing a new level of mental strain. Looking to meet a high demand for mental health management, some universities are relying on third-party teletherapy companies and digital apps.

According to the National Library of Medicine, students are coping with different tiers of anxiety disorders and thoughts of suicide. The Chronicle of Education mentioned colleges cannot meet students’ mental health needs. Getting them help quickly is increasingly important and teletherapy companies are filling those gaps.

Considering digital advances in mental health care, Cal Poly Pomona primarily works through in-person and telehealth treatment.

“I have been managing my stress at Cal Poly by just having to work through it,” said political science student, Cole McMillin.

He emphasized the pressure he feels under the workload is what drives him through his academic career.

In terms of using any digital assistance at CPP, McMillin said: “I know there is a place to try and receive mental health through the health portal. I heard about this program in my freshman year, 2021. When I tried to reach out, I was met with an automated message, making me feel less cared for and put in a line waiting till I am just ‘next up.’”

Director for Counseling and Psychological Services at CPP, Kell Fujimoto, Ph.D., confirmed CPP does not use any third-party services.

“Counseling and Psychological Services offers several of its services via telehealth,” Fujimoto said. “Individual counseling is offered in person and through telehealth. Workshops and presentations are also offered both in-person and virtually. Initial consultations or conversations with students are also done through telehealth.”

Fujimoto considered the visits that were happening during the fall semester and explained there have been more in-person visits than telehealth visits.

“I believe that in-person sessions may be more convenient for students since they are physically on campus,” Fujimoto said. “In addition, I believe students appreciate the in-person connection they have with their clinician/therapist.”

Fujimoto specified CAPS connects with the division of student affairs’ social media to reach out to students. He said the division’s platform has a larger reach to the student population and campus community.

Third-party teletherapy companies such as Uwill, TimelyCare and BetterMynd are working with multiple universities across the nation. TimelyCare declares to have collaborated with over 200 college platforms and holds a partnership with Canvas, a familiar web-based learning management system to CPP students. Uwill partnered with UC Santa Barbara, Cabrini University and Columbus State Community College.

Lesly Velasco | The Poly Post

The California Faculty Association Union CPP chapter confirmed the average number of students to counselors is currently 2,900, despite the International Accreditation of Counseling Services’ suggested ratio of 1,000-1,500.

In a National Library of Medicine article about mental health of college students and their non-college-attending peers, 2,188 students were put through a 12-month observance of any psychiatric diseases, personality problems and substance use among undergraduates and non-college-attending adults. Additionally, 11.9% undergraduates reported they were experiencing some type of mental health-related illness while in college.

According to the National Library of Medicine, a comprehensive study of 8,155 students found that 6.7% contemplated suicidal thoughts, 1.6% had a suicide plot and 0.5% had attempted suicide during the previous year.

The trenches of the mental battle run deeper for Black, Indigenous and people of color. Teletherapy company, BetterMynd, determined students of color struggle with finding the care they require due to harmful stigmas, stereotypes and discrimination associated with mental health. Additionally, they list the cost of mental health care and insurance, as well as structural impediments such as transportation, reliable internet access and a suitable environment.

“Many students feel more comfortable interacting with healthcare providers with similar backgrounds or identities, including race, ethnicity, gender and/or geography,” said Seli Fakorzi, director of mental health for TimelyCare. “When students can’t find care providers who reflect their lived experiences, their beliefs, and their culture, it can prevent them from achieving health equity and getting the health outcomes and care they need.”

According to research provided by TimelyCare, 77% of college students who sought help from TimelyCare expressed improved mental health, and 52% of those utilizing the mental health service lines claimed they would have done nothing if TimelyCare did not exist.

Those interested in finding out more about mental health services can contact Counseling & Psychological Services Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., in person at building room 116, by phone at (909) 869-3220 or go online.

Feature Image Courtesy of Nick Vasquez. 

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