Stanford student mental health and well-being services expanded

A new model for Stanford students seeking mental health and well-being services is among the changes Vaden Health Center is making to better provide services in the future.

The need for mental health and well-being services for students on college campuses is increasing nationwide, including at Stanford. The growing demand here on the Farm has led Vaden Health Center to implement changes to how it provides services to students, including a new Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) model and a renaming and expansion of services at Wellness and Health Promotion Services.

Over the past several months, the university has accomplished much in the way it supports student mental health and well-being, according to Bina Patel, director of CAPS. Initiatives include campus-wide conversations with students and community members about the growing need for support, additional resources for CAPS, well-being and resource matrix trainings, and partnerships with the JED initiative, a nationwide program to address mental health issues among teens and young adults.

Vaden Health Center is expanding services to better support student mental health and well-being. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

Patel said that due to growing demand, Vaden Health Services recognized the need to modify its process for providing mental health and well-being services. The services needed to be more flexible, and wait times needed to be decreased.

“We have been focusing on how we can get students in the door earlier, how can we connect students to services across campus and how can we expand our range of services,” she said. “We’ve also recognized the need for more flexibility in how counseling sessions are provided.”

A new CAPS model

Under the old CAPS intake system, students would request a phone assessment appointment, complete an intake and then begin therapy. But according to CAPS operations director Oliver Lin, an evaluation revealed that increased demand had put an unsustainable strain on the system.

“We got this bottle-necking effect as a consequence,” Lin said. “The wait for intakes would take longer and longer, and students would have to wait as much as a month.”

Under a new consult-based access model at CAPS, students’ first point of contact with a clinician will be through an on-demand process called “access coordination.” (Image credit: Courtesy Stanford Counseling and Psychological Services)

Under the new consult-based access model, Lin explained that there will be no phone assessments. Instead, students’ first point of contact with CAPS will be through an on-demand process called “access coordination,” a brief discussion with a CAPS clinician to determine the necessary resources and services. That may be followed by an initial consult with a clinician to talk about what the student is experiencing, followed by creation of a support plan. This clinician will assess how best to address student concerns and discuss intervention options, which could be:

  • A follow-up consult with the clinician for a few sessions to address current concerns
  • Joining an on-campus group or workshop relevant to the student’s life
  • A community referral to find a therapist who has a particular specialty and the ability to see a student for an extended period of time
  • A psychiatry consult around potential medication needs (fees will apply)

Students can walk into or phone CAPS for access coordination weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Outside of normal working hours, students can access 24/7 mental health assistance by calling (650) 723-3785, including evenings and weekends. A clinician will be available to speak with students, assess their situation and offer follow-up support or recommendations.

Wellness and Health Promotion Services renamed

Additional changes to how Vaden provides support to students include a renaming of Wellness and Health Promotion Services, which will now be called Well-Being at Stanford. The office has a new location on the G Level of Kingscote Gardens. Well-Being at Stanford will collaborate with departments on campus also concerned with student well-being, including CAPS, Health and Human Performance, the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education and the Confidential Support Team.

Inge Hansen, the new director of Well-Being at Stanford, explained the approach her office is taking to supporting students. “We’re moving into a more public-health focused lens and thinking about how we can support communities, and we’re thinking about things at a micro-community level,” Hansen said, adding that social justice and equity will be at the forefront of their work moving forward.

Well-Being at Stanford is expanding the scope of its services with a pilot coaching program this fall for students who don’t necessarily need therapy but would like someone to talk to.

“What we’re offering is individualized sessions with students about adjusting to Stanford, or mild depression and anxiety, loss, healthy eating support or balancing academics with life,” Hansen said.

Hansen’s office is hiring new student support specialists. These new hires will be professional staff who will collaborate with Residential Education, Undergraduate Advising, the Graduate Life Office, community centers and ethnic theme dorms.

Well-Being at Stanford is also considering offering a peer coaching program and an “adulting” class to offer such tools as effective communication and healthy eating and sleeping habits in one holistic course.

Addressing growing need

Nationwide, demand for mental health and well-being services for students is on the rise. This was consistent with recent research conducted by CAPS.

“We learned we’re not alone with mental health needs and trends. We weren’t alone in terms of insufficient access. We weren’t alone in terms of demand. We weren’t alone in terms of feelings of overwhelmed staff,” Lin said.

Patel noted that increased stress has been a particularly taxing issue for Stanford students in recent months.

“It’s been a heartbreaking year of student loss,” Patel said. “Tragic events across campus have affected us individually and collectively.”

Patel shared the results of one national survey in which 87 percent of students reported feeling overwhelmed by their responsibilities in the past year, and 85 percent said they felt exhausted. Seventy-one percent of students nationwide reported feeling very sad, and 66 percent reported overwhelming anxiety. Furthermore, 24 percent of students surveyed were diagnosed with or treated for anxiety, and 20 percent for depression.

“Stanford recognizes the urgent need to respond to these trends, and I have appreciated the campus-wide support and interest in addressing these concerns,” Patel said. “But we also want to be proactive in promoting positive mental health and well-being. The changes and collaborations we’ve discussed are initial steps toward these goals. We know these efforts are works-in-progress, and that we will have to continuously evolve in order to meet the needs of our students.”

More information is available on the Student Affairs website about steps Stanford is taking to advance student mental health and well-being.