While many students spent time with family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday last November, EMU senior Sheree Braswell was in the hospital. She checked herself in with suicidal thoughts and other symptoms of anxiety and depression.
“I felt grief after the death of some family members over the summer,” says Sheree, 30, who had been hospitalized on four previous occasions for similar mental health issues. “Then another loved one became ill right before the start of the fall semester. I felt exhausted and emotionally drained.”
Sheree’s struggles with mental illness began at age 16. Doctors diagnosed her with bipolar disorder at age 22. A combination of psychotherapy and medication helped her continue her college studies.
After some medication adjustments, Sheree left the hospital shortly after her last hospitalization. But medical insurance coverage limitations prohibited her from seeing her regular therapist. Thankfully, Sheree received the help she needed at Eastern’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
“I had a wonderful therapist through CAPS who helped me go through the process of grief,” says Sheree, who graduated in April with a BA in Communications and minor in Family Sociology. “I also learned that I need to set boundaries and take care of myself so I’m not left feeling depleted. A person needs those skills to be successful in life. My therapist was very affirming and helped fill the gap until I was able to resume sessions with my longtime therapist.”
Sheree’s story isn’t uncommon. According to a study by the Mayo Clinic, up to 44 percent of college students reported having symptoms of anxiety and depression in the past year. About 50 percent of college students have felt overwhelmed and anxious.
CAPS’ services are designed to help reduce those barriers toward student success, says CAPS Director Lisa Lauterbach.
“Mental health conditions like depression or anxiety can make it hard for students to concentrate and be successful,” Lauterbach says. “Other students may be going through a significant event, such as a death in the family, a sexual assault, or a loved one’s cancer diagnosis. Mental health issues are a factor that contributes to college drop outs. Our clinicians not only help students find academic success but also find a better path in life.”
CAPS offers short-term individual therapy (up to 12 sessions per year) on campus to current EMU students who are enrolled at least half-time. After-hours phone sessions and some couples sessions are also available. Each semester, CAPS offers group therapy sessions on topics such as LGBTQ issues, family dynamics and sexual assault.
Full-time staff includes six psychologists, three clinical social workers and a licensed professional counselor. A part-time psychiatrist sees students with conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADHD and bipolar disorder. The staff is rounded out by 14 other clinicians, including graduate students and some part-time and contract employees.
Services at CAPS are free, although there is a charge for psychiatrist appointments. Most forms of Blue Cross health insurance are accepted, as well as student health insurance purchased through EMU.
“We see about 1,100 to 1,200 students each year,” Lauterbach says. “Those numbers have been increasing as more students return to campus post-pandemic. This year, we did a blend of in-person and telehealth sessions.
Lauterbach says today’s students are more comfortable talking about mental health issues than in the past, which contributes to the high demand for CAPS services.
“There is less of a stigma about seeking mental health services today,” Lauterbach says. “That means students are more likely to ask for help. They’re often referred by other students, faculty or housing staff.”
During an initial intake appointment, a student meets with a CAPS staff member to discuss individual needs before being matched with a therapist. If a student needs ongoing or long-term support, CAPS can make a referral to an outside mental health provider.
“Mental health struggles are common and it’s okay to talk about them,” Lauterbach says. “If you’re struggling, talk to someone you trust and seek help if you need it. Resources are available.”
Sheree, who was featured on the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network blog and also blogs about mental health on her personal blog, says she shares her story to let others know there’s no shame in asking for help.
“I want to break the stigma about mental illness, particularly within the African-American community and people of faith,” says Sheree, who plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work and become a licensed clinical social worker. “I want to be a person who helps others see that they’re not alone with mental health struggles. We can manage it and still conquer our goals. My perseverance is the greatest thing I can share.”
Visit the Counseling and Psychological Services website or contact the office at 734.487.1118 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about its services and appointment scheduling. The site home page also includes a free and confidential health screening to help visitors learn if they may benefit from professional counseling.
About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 15,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.