Mental health has been a topic of discussion for quite some time, so it comes to no surprise that the conversation has come to Penn State.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 24.8% of U.S. adults experienced a mental disorder in the past 12 months, and college students specifically are more prone to developing a mental illness due to their circumstances. Many mental illnesses are triggered by some stressor in an individual’s environment, and college usually houses a lot of those stressors.
Depression, anxiety and eating disorders are some of the leading mental illnesses on college campuses around the United States that are brought on by stressors such as social integration, moving/transitioning, stress and more that are seemingly paired to a lot of the college experience.
At universities across the country, programs are set up to provide a place in which students can seek out help for the emotions they may be feeling, but like any school sanctioned program, it requires funding.
The Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at Penn State falls under the Health and Services Department which, as stated in the 2019-2020 budget summary, will receive $2,687,673 in funding. While that may seem like a large amount, when it comes to resources, supplies and funding for the specific subgroups within the health department, $2,687,673 may not end up being that much.
As of right now, the CAPS program offers group counseling, CAPS chats, psychiatric services and more to all the students currently enrolled in Penn State, but with vast number of those seeking help, resources can be stretched thin.
As following the 130 year tradition, the graduating class of 2020 recently voted on the class gift that the university would receive at the end of the academic school year. On Oct. 1, 2019 the class announced their establishment of an endowment to support Penn State’s Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
The idea behind the class gift is to leave behind a legacy of the graduating members that want to give back to the university, and this endowment can do just that. Through philanthropic initiative and reaching out to donors, alums and advocates of mental health, the students of the 2020 class have worked with faculty to set up the endowment that will lead to increase in funds for the CAPS program here at Penn State.
As of right now there is a limit to the number of sessions that a student can attend, and the 2018 Annual Report describes 179,964 unique college students seeking mental health treatment, 3,723 clinicians and more than 1,384,712 appointments from the 2017-18 academic year. With the endowment, that can all change as there will be more practitioners and supplies available.
Wil Dunn, Executive Director of the Class Gift Campaign, explains the importance of this year’s class gift.
“The Class Gift of 2020 is a gift that will live on for many years,” Dunn says. “It will allow more students to help themselves and use vital resources. CAPS is a resource on campus that is very underfunded and with the Class Gift of 2020, it will not only bring attention to that, but allow there to be more funding as well.”
Alongside their importance to their well-being of their students, CAPS partakes in research and provides opportunities for students; with the installation of this endowment, the class of 2020 has helped in creating prospective hands-on experiences and training for mental health practitioners in their field of interest.
Through alumni participation and donations, this class gift will help in improving the standard of which Penn State can aid its students that are suffering from mental illness during their time here in college.