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Towards a better mental health

Finals are approaching, bringing with them high levels of anxiety and stress. From first-year students nervous for their first bout of Duke final exams to seniors worried about uncertain post-graduation plans, finals week is a period of heightened mental exhaustion. Similar mental fatigue surrounding the Duke experience is not uncommon during other times of the year, including during rush or job recruitment. We encourage students who face converging pressures from each facet of life to not feel as if they are uniquely suffering in a sea of “effortless perfection.” Seeking treatment for pain, depression or other negative feelings is normal and encouraged. Moreover, in light of recent criticisms of CAPs and other treatment options on campus, it is imperative that the administration improves upon its commitment in providing adequate mental health resources for the many Duke students who suffer from mental ailments. 

Students often turn to mental health professionals when faced with a wide variety of environmental stresses. Despite common misconceptions perpetuated by media, therapy is often a personalized process, including more than simply discussions. Therapy can be viewed as a brainstorming session involving a more goal-oriented approach depending on its form. At Duke, personalized therapy can be accessed by students in a few key ways. As we have in past editorials, we recommend that students take advantage of on-campus resources such as CAPS—despite any reservations we may have expressed in the past—as well as the Duke Medical Center’s psychiatric services. For further resources, students can venture off campus to psychologists and psychiatrists in the Durham community. 

Although the University has clearly made a commitment to providing mental health resources to its students through institutions like CAPS, recent criticisms have nonetheless made it clear that many improvements need to be made to the current system. Students have reported displeasure at the long waiting period required for appointments at CAPs, as well as an apparent session limit for patients. More than just providing a new, state of the art venue for mental health resources, the University should seek to allocate more tangible improvements to CAPS by hiring more permanently staffed mental health practitioners to match the current demand for treatment on campus. 

To help with this process, student groups on campus should continue to push against the stigmatization of mental health issues by aggregating recommendations to community psychologists and psychiatrists to serve as resources for others. CAPS can also facilitate this process by helping to gather potentially-anonymous testimony from students who may have found success with the help they have sought off campus. Moreover, outside of official treatment options, there exists a whole host of student-led mental health initiatives, such as Peer for You, that allows students to seek personal treatment outside of CAPS. Even simply taking time off from schoolwork to walk through the Duke Gardens, or jogging through campus can contribute to a more stable mental wellbeing. 

The end of the semester represents a stressful time for many Duke students as we hurl ourselves into a seemingly never-ending pile of final exams, projects, and papers in the hope of a satisfactory outcome. It is especially important during this time of the year, as well as other stressful times during one’s Duke experience, to seek proper mental health treatment, and to recognize the normality of mental health issues on-campus. Moreover, in light of recent complaints over CAPS and other treatment options on-campus, the University is obligated to renew its commitment in providing easily accessible and proper mental health resources to students. 


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