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CAPS to provide counseling to students affected by campus tragedies

Counseling and Psychological Services offers trainings for students who want to learn about mental health and suicide. (Daily Bruin file photos)

By Yiling Liu

Nov. 3, 2016 9:43 p.m.

Student organizations and on-campus services will continue to offer mental health resources for students affected by the recent suicide and death on campus.

As a response to the suicide, Counseling and Psychological Services is reaching out to students directly affected, said Nicole Green, executive director of CAPS. But CAPS and several student organizations said they offer resources for all students struggling with suicidal thoughts, depression and other mental health problems.

[Related: Active Minds seeks to provide support in the midst of deaths on campus

“Suicide is a tragic situation for one’s family and friends,” said Michael Beck, administrative vice chancellor of UCLA. “It is heartbreaking when someone makes a decision like this, as there are so many mental health resources and opportunities available to them across campus.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention8 percent of college students have suicidal thoughts.

Warning signs of suicide include dramatic changes in day-to-day activities, skipping classes, avoiding friends, hopelessness and being withdrawn, Green said.

Green said CAPS offers trainings for students who want to learn about mental health and suicide. One training, called Question, Persuade and Refer, teaches students signs and symptoms of distress, how to ask questions to someone who may be suicidal and how to persuade people to get help.

Another training called the Mental Health First Aid teaches students about the symptoms and signs of various mental health issues, such as anxiety or eating disorders.

Suzanne Seplow, assistant vice chancellor of Student Development at UCLA, said CAPS primarily functions as a clinical setting.

However, Seplow said the UCLA Office of Campus and Student Resilience has peer-to-peer counseling services. The office launched the Resilience Peer Network in spring 2016 in partnership with the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge initiative. Student volunteers who participate in the program learn skills like active listening and suicide prevention.

[Related: Kuhelika Ghosh: Resilience Peer Network is a good substitute for fewer CAPS sessions]

The UCLA Depression Grand Challenge seeks to raise awareness for depression and reduce the burden on those affected by the disease.

Additionally, faculty members are given a folder with information about how to help students with mental health problems, Seplow said.

“The red folder goes to all faculty and staff (and) is basically a cheat sheet that provides quick reference surrounding a lot of issues around students in distress,” Seplow said.

Some people do not seek mental health services because of the stigma associated with mental illness, according to a study published in the Medical Care Research and Review journal.

Taylor Tabbut, president of National Alliance on Mental Illness on Campus at UCLA, and a fourth-year African and Middle Eastern studies student, said she thinks social pressure is part of that stigma.

“(There is) fear of someone seeing you walk in (to CAPS),” Tabbut said. “Because then you have to acknowledge you have a reason for going there.”

Tabbut said NAMI on Campus at UCLA plans to distribute study packs around campus that include information on mental health conditions, snacks and a stress ball or coloring activities, to relieve stress.

Sabrina Ahmed, executive director of the Beautiful Mind Project and a fourth-year physiological science student, said she thinks a lot of stigma stems from family background.

The BMP is a student organization that aims to destigmatize conversations about mental health in the Muslim community.

“My parents would never talk about any mental health services back home,” Ahmed said.

The BMP aims to bring a faith-based perspective to mental health guidance, said Noor Zanial, co-founder of the BMP and fourth-year human biology and society student.

The BMP provides a list of Muslim mental health professionals to make Muslim students feel more comfortable seeking help, said Zanial.

“Our greatest success is garnering this passion within the community to address our mental health needs,” said Zanial. “(We are) really pushing forward amongst any hurdles we’ve come across to continue providing these services and growing the discussion.”

Despite the resources the BMP and other organizations offer, Ahmed said she would still recommend that students visit CAPS.

“CAPS does have resources, and everyone’s experience is different,” Ahmed said.

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