Managing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on MUSC students is a mental health roller coaster that can lead to heightened feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and fear, in addition to depression, worthlessness and sadness. It has been compared to riding the twists and turns of In response, students, faculty, and staff have worked together to provide a more supportive academic experience.
In 2020, problems were only just beginning as campuses closed to students and all classes instantly transitioned to online learning. Instead, many freshmen and sophomores expressed that they struggled with being homebound, with personal isolation, loss of interpersonal relationships, and loss of interaction with professors, mentors, and peers. – Shorten students’ school expectations and experiences.
During this time, one valuable resource readily available to students is MUSC’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). CAPS is an on-campus program that provides students with a range of high-quality, confidential, evidence-based mental health services and supports.
Vice Chancellor of Educational Innovation and Student Life, Gigi Smith, Ph.D., RN, supports CAPS’s mission to help all MUSC students, especially during the pandemic.
“The pandemic came unexpectedly for all of us,” Smith said. “When a student enrolled at her MUSC, we made a commitment to provide the services and resources students need to become the individual they want to be. That is what we do.”
For over 20 years, the CAPS team has provided MUSC students with high-quality, problem-focused mental health services and delivered a range of evidence-based treatments. The team consisted of 14 mental health care professionals, including licensed clinical psychologists, professional counselors, doctoral-level psychiatric nurses, primary care physicians, part-time psychiatric residents, support staff, and health care professionals. We assist students at every stage of their educational journey. These professionals are ready to assess and treat anxiety, depression, substance use, and other mental health concerns and crises. Since the beginning of the pandemic, they have also dealt with other issues such as distance learning, quarantine, home confinement, fear of contracting COVID-19, social isolation and grief.
Students can refer themselves or be referred by staff or faculty. Students begin with an initial assessment by a CAPS team provider and work with the provider to develop a comprehensive treatment plan in the context of a therapeutic alliance. CAPS provides individualized mental health services. couples counseling; psychopharmacological management for problems such as anxiety, depression, mood disorders, eating disorders, and insomnia. Advice on substance use treatment; suicide prevention; and more. Students work with counselors from diverse backgrounds. In early 2021, CAPS expanded its team to include two PhD-level psychiatric nurses and is now extending student appointment times.
“Our goal is to provide a personalized approach to care based on the specific needs identified. This is not a one-size-fits-all approach,” says a licensed clinical psychologist. said Director Alice Libet, Ph.D. “Not all students need mental health care, but it is a useful resource for many. Our team has risen to the occasion to meet the needs of our students using confidential web-based resources, working from home, closets and kitchen tables to provide professional mental health care without interruption. We have provided a service to our students. I am very proud of the work, resilience and dedication of this team.”
According to Libet, the team has catered to over 1,195 unique students and provided 8,692 bookings during the pandemic from spring 2020 to today.
Prioritizing Student Mental Health
At MUSCs and campuses across the country, student services leaders like Smith and Rivet are working with college faculty to review mental health policies and practices for students and address the mental health crisis fueled by the pandemic. hosted candid discussions about the expansion of They looked for a solution that addressed not only learning and academic success, but also student well-being. These healthcare students in training will one day be an important part of their own patients’ health and wellness journeys, Libet said. For this reason, it is imperative that students learn to prioritize their own physical and mental health.
Amy Horner, a CAPS licensed professional counselor, and colleagues at CAPS also emphasized the value of providing mental health services campus-wide to reduce the stigma that can deter students from seeking treatment. .
In addition to pandemic-related issues such as quarantine and vaccine efficacy, the team has also addressed student issues such as self-doubt and impostor syndrome. they are trained.
“Mental health services for students are needed more than ever. Struggling to recognize and understand being human, they say, “How am I supposed to help my patients if I can’t help myself?” It is very important to recognize that you may need help. Mental health issues are not discrimination,” Horner said.
The CAPS team accepts not only self-introductions by students, but also referrals from university faculty, administrators, instructors, staff, and fellow students. The CAPS team also works closely with campus behavioral support and intervention teams. This team is a group of faculty and staff representatives from each university who work to identify and assist students in distress and intervene when necessary to maintain a safe campus for all. They receive reports of distressed students and encourage others to recognize, respond, refer and report.
CAPS is a particularly valuable service for colleges and their student affairs teams that support students. Since spring 2020, student appointments and consultations have increased significantly, especially due to the pandemic and unsettled global events.
Cathy Worrall, Pharm.D., associate dean of admissions and student affairs at the College of Pharmacy, oversees four cohort classes (about 350 pharmacy students), and has learned about the stress pharmacy students have endured during the pandemic. I am keenly aware of She addresses challenges during clinical rotations and does didactic course work while transitioning to distance learning to manage patient fear and pandemic anxiety.
“Student mental health issues seem to have exploded beyond typical problems, especially in the early days and after the COVID pandemic. Students put their needs forward and turned to the CAPS team for help and support. It was easy to introduce, CAPS did a great job of pivoting to serve the students who needed to meet them virtually.All students should have the support they need at that time. We were able to do that,” says Worrall.
She was most impressed with CAPS’ proactive approach during the pandemic. The leader will create further programming that addresses self-care topics on mental health and mindfulness practices, coping strategies and exercises, and will make her a professional wellness resource that students can access and practice 24/7. provided. .
Another useful tool introduced by CAPS and the Behavioral Support and Intervention Team is Red Folder. This is an icon on the university homepage that provides faculty, staff and students with information about behaviors and symptoms of concern and provides a list of helpful resources. This tool encourages the MUSC community to say, “Look at something. Say something. This page provides information, resources, suitable referrals, and campus phone numbers to help our users.
According to Worrall, perhaps one of the most difficult times during the pandemic was when students returned to classrooms last fall. CAPS responded with educational presentations on time management, stress reduction, sleep disorders, and other important subjects.
“It is the goal of the college and our college to schedule time for students to focus on, manage and prioritize self-care and well-being,” said Worrall. “We all hope to see the improvement after a year with our students returning to face-to-face activities. I hope you are in a better place for
During the summer, CAPS team members met with Worrall and other university leaders to assess student needs and get feedback. In August, the team got to present in person at freshman orientations for all six of his colleges. The team now continues with monthly educational presentations on a variety of topics, and at upcoming CAPS events, a licensed therapy dog (a shepherd dog named Atlas and psychiatric nurse practitioner Akeya Harrold, affiliated with DNP) ) will be included.
“Of course, CAPS would not have been successful without the support of Smith and the Governor’s Office,” said CAPS Counselor Horner. “They have helped us recognize and assess our needs, expand our services, and recruit the practitioners we need. We recognize and support our goal of providing excellent service to MUSC students.”
For more information, visit CAPS at MUSC or call 843-792-4930.
MUSC Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Team
Alice Libet, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Director. Chloe Connick, MS, Licensed Professional Counselor. Amy Horner, Massachusetts, Licensed Professional Counselor. Akeya Harrold, DNP, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Donna Lee Williams, DNP, Psychiatric Nurse. Brittainy Erby, MD, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, attending physician. Brett Zeigler, MD, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, attending physician. Allie Grimes, MD, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Fellow. Deepa Luka, MD, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Fellow. Ethan Wohl, DO, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Fellow. Samuel Howard, MD, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Resident. Cordy McGill-Scarlett, MD, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Resident. Jack Edelson, MD, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Resident. Deborah Lin, MD, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Resident and Damian Millet, RN