As the academic demands continue to spike throughout the course of the school year, there is an undeniably palpable sense of anxiety pervading the campus. Bates students stand at the unique intersection of being members of a rigorous, famed academic community while simultaneously joining the most anxiety-ridden generation, statistically speaking.
Thus, prioritizing the mental health of students has never been as crucial and material to greater student safety as it is now. One of Bates’ most indispensable student services, the Office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), has recently undergone a series of substantial structural changes to its operating systems and leadership board.
I spoke with Doctor Aileen Park, who was appointed as the new Director for the Office in September, to learn more about these developments. Dr. Park was previously employed at Bowdoin College, where she served as Associate Director for the college’s counseling services.
Firstly, Dr. Park walked through the appointment making process, among the new operating procedures CAPS has adopted. Appointments can be made over the phone, in person, or via email correspondence. By employing three full time mental health professional staff, the office’s administration aims to keep slots open so that no student will have to wait longer than a week or a week and a half to make a non-urgent appointment.
In a similar vein, Dr. Park told me that the office conducts an “emergency hour” during weekdays at 3 p.m. “This hour is reserved for when students are experiencing an urgent mental health issue or crisis, and need to be seen on a same day basis. The front desk has a screening form that a student can fill out to help make a decision if the emergency hour is right for them.”
One of the largest overhauls recently conducted by the center is the new ProtoCall program, put into practice last winter, which aims to provide psychological and counseling services to students when the main CAPS services are closed or otherwise not operating. “ProtoCall counselors”, started Park, “are licensed, trained, and supervised mental health professionals who specialize in crisis phone support for many college campuses and other organizations across the country. CAPS collaborated closely with ProtoCall so that they are attuned to specifics of the Bates community.” ProtoCall provides a two-fold value to the Bates community: firstly, it allows discreet psychological counseling to students in need, who may find it daunting to approach the CAPS office in person. Secondly, it serves as a tremendously useful service to the college’s Residence Life staff, who may contact a ProtoCall counselor if they are concerned about the mental health or welfare of a student.
Dr. Park is dedicated to employing her expertise in the fields of psychology to ensure that Bates is fully equipped to address every possible concern regarding the mental health of its students. “We make any and all changes in order to best serve the Bates student community, in as efficient and helpful way as is possible with the staffing and resources CAPS currently has.” Dr. Park also indicated that she has plans for more changes in the future to further develop the office’s outreach.