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Stony Brook Puts Spotlight on Mental Health Initiatives 

Caps staff
Caps staff
The staff of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at Stony Brook University.

With 64 percent of college students leaving higher education because of a mental health issue, Stony Brook University is making an effort to bolster mental health services to ensure academic success and wellness. 

Thanks to a growing awareness of mental health issues, SBU students are more willing to seek services — ranging from outreach, prevention, early intervention, referral and treatment to support students in need — and get help.

Smita Majumdar Das, executive director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and Behavioral Health, explained that with the growing body of knowledge in the mental health services, we know that not everyone will need or benefit from individual therapy alone. 

“At Stony Brook, our Seawolves engage from the get-go in a diverse set of psychoeducational resources, activities and services to prioritize their mental health and wellness,” she said.

A Center for Collegiate Mental Health (2022) report noted that “involvement in extracurricular activities is the most salient variable, which reduces the risk of withdrawal.” Das explained that the first step to lifting a mental health cloud could be waiting for you in one of the clubs, sports and numerous extracurricular activities offered by the Stony Brook community. 

However, mental health should be taken seriously, and there are plenty of resources available to help. For preventative resources, there is the Center for Prevention and Outreach (CPO). The mission of this office is to “educate, empower and connect” by offering health and wellness services that most impact physical health, emotional wellness, interpersonal violence and substance abuse. CPO can also aid Seawolves in working through personal growth, like making healthy decisions and learning ways to react to challenges they may face throughout their lives, long after they leave Stony Brook. 

For students in need of mental health treatment, CAPS offers many options such as individual therapy, group therapy, telecounseling, medication management and off-campus referral for long-term care options. To start a care journey at CAPS, students should schedule an initial consultation by visiting the CAPS website to find a time that best suits their schedule.

While appointments are released every morning (with the exception of Thursday), students should feel free to call the CAPS office if an appointment is unable to be scheduled. However, for students in crisis, the 24/7 CAPS Crisis Line can be utilized. Students can reach the CAPS Crisis Line at 631-632-6720. 

Here are some of the avenues available to students looking for mental health treatment after needs are assessed: 

  • Individual therapy: Once you begin our journey at CAPS, you and your initial consultation counselor will determine if individual therapy is the best option for you. If it is, then you have the option of connecting with a therapist in-person on campus or access telecounseling through TimelyCare. TimelyCare providers offer sessions on weeknight as well as weekends. (Note: You can directly access Timelycare to schedule individual sessions without coming to CAPS.)
  • Goal-oriented counseling: Stuck? This route is for you. This is a one-time counseling session that allows students to discuss an issue with a counselor, who will then help with a solution via problem solving skills. 
  • Telehealth therapy: Das explains that telehealth therapy through CAPS can help with those students who have a difficult schedule or those who feel more comfortable meeting virtually. This also helps with students who may feel more comfortable speaking to a counselor of a certain gender or race, which may not be available for an in-person meeting. “You can schedule a counseling session with the provider of your choice. It is really a therapy as you want, therapy as you need kind of service,” Das said. 
  • TalkNOW: If a need to talk arises outside of a mental health emergency, TalkNOW has been made available. This service allows students to chat with someone on-demand, no matter what time or day, to help them through an immediate period of anxiety or when feeling overwhelmed. “While this is not scheduled counseling, it can allow students to talk to a counselor for an hour to really decompress, understand what the problem is and really go through those things first,” said Das. 

To this, however, Das explains that keeping an open mind about the treatment path is something that students should be ready for, as the professionals at CAPS and beyond can create a treatment plan that will attack the root cause. “When you decide you need a certain treatment, you are foreclosing options that may be available to you,” she said. 

Additionally, Das notes that keeping a healthy mind doesn’t end with counseling, medication and the like. Just like exercise and a balanced diet, there is more to mental health than meets the eye.  

“Mental health cannot be seen just as treatment. It has to be seen as all the things you do to keep your mental health well,” she said, noting that programs like the Healing Arts Program and the PALS program, as well as workshops that help teach and practice coping strategies may also be additional ways to assist in mental well-being. 

There are cases in which more significant treatment may be necessary. CAPS also helps in coordination of continuation of care, ensuring student health services are met during transitional periods. It will also help with longer-term care plans, off-campus treatment resources, specialized treatment plans and aid with attaining community resources, such as food assistance. 

— Emily Cappiello

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