An open letter from CAPS Director on mental health

April 27, 2016, 11:59 p.m.

Mental health on college campuses is a complex issue involving many stakeholders — from students, parents and friends to faculty and staff. Unfortunately, communication between these groups can sometimes be inconsistent leading to the appearance of a paucity of action.

Lily Zheng’s April 17 op-ed (“How Stanford forgot about its mental health crisis”) raises the concern that mental health is no longer foremost on people’s minds. While there may be less media coverage about the issue in recent months, in reality many Stanford faculty, students and staff continue to work together on the issue. Zheng’s timely op-ed provides me with an opportunity to provide the Stanford community with an update highlighting the intense activity around student well-being and mental health on Stanford’s campus.

  1. There is an ongoing Mental Health and Well-Being Advisory Board, which meets twice a quarter to oversee and strategize on all services and outreach activity on the campus. The advisory board comprises faculty, staff and students, both graduate and undergraduate, who are all passionate about ensuring the best quality care, prevention, information sharing, outreach and networking. The ultimate goal is enhancing the campus safety net and educating the campus about mental health and well-being issues affecting students.
  1. Under my direction, CAPS has initiated a Student Advisory Committee, which has begun meeting once a month for the purpose of engaging with students, getting their feedback, and developing solutions for students side-by-side with CAPS staff.
  1. Based on student feedback, CAPS made significant modifications in its phone assessment process. We have received high positive marks from those who have used it this year. In addition, CAPS has hired a referral coordinator who is helping students without Cardinal Care get connected to mental health treatment in the local community.
  1. Our average wait time, which was close to 11 days last year, is just over six days for the entirety of this academic year. These appointments are for non-urgent care. We still continue to see students on the same day for urgent or emergent situations.
  1. The number of student groups interested in mental health and well-being issues has blossomed throughout this academic year. In fact, the challenge in managing the increase in enthusiasm is providing adequate consultation and limiting unintentional overlap in each group’s mission.
  1. CAPS has enhanced its ability to reach out to traditionally underserved communities on campus. This year, we added staff in Lagunita Court and are also piloting two onsite counselors within residences in collaboration with a student initiative.
  1. In the near future, CAPS will pilot online supplemental psychological care and prevention services in addition to the treatment already being offered in person at CAPS. We will collect feedback from students and staff in an effort to determine whether we will continue to support this effort on an ongoing basis.
  1. CAPS has developed a closer working relationship with Stanford’s Department of Psychiatry, enabling us to get students into care more rapidly.
  1. Vaden’s Health Promotion Services has launched the Healthy Campus 2020 initiative focused in large part on mental health and well-being.
  1. This past Sunday, many staff participated in the student-led “Out of the Darkness” campus walk to increase awareness about suicide, its impact on communities and resources for both survivors and those struggling with self-destructive thoughts.

I realize that many of these developments go on behind the scenes, and unless one is directly involved it’s difficult to know just how much is getting done. As Zheng mentions, mental health should not be a forgotten issue. I couldn’t agree with Zheng more. Fortunately, it continues to be an issue of high priority, not only for myself and the staff at CAPS, but also everybody I meet with on campus, including faculty, staff, students and administrators. I am buoyed by the enthusiasm and compassion I see every day and remain confident that our community is invested for the long term.


Ron C. Albucher, M. D.

Director, Counseling and Psychological Services

Vaden Health Center

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