UNC-Chapel Hill starts waitlist for counseling for the first time in 14 years amid staffing turnover

Orange County News

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – On Wednesday, UNC-Chapel Hill leaders told CBS 17 they have started a waitlist for those seeking ongoing individual counseling appointments. 

This is the first time in 14 years university leaders said they’ve had to start a waitlist for those seeking individual appointments through the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services, also known as CAPS. 

This comes as students have voiced concerns about the need for more mental health resources, as at least three UNC-CH students have died from suicide this semester. Two of those individuals died just last weekend. 

The university said the waitlist is only for those seeking ongoing appointments, and that if a student is experiencing an urgent crisis, they can reach someone immediately through CAPS’ 24/7 hotline which is 919-966-3658. 

In a statement emailed from UNC-CH’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Amy Johnson said that the average wait time for scheduling ongoing individual counseling appointments is approximately one week.  

“The primary reason is that CAPS has had some staff turnover, consistent with what is happening in the healthcare field across the country,” Johnson said in the statement.  

UNC-CH is currently in the process of hiring two permanent counselors. In addition, it is hiring temporary counselors for short-term coverage as needed. 

The University is also pursuing a telehealth counseling contract.  

“Once this happens, we are optimistic we will not need to use the individual counseling appointments waitlist,” Johnson said in the statement. 

But UNC junior Alexis Lewis said she is concerned about the staffing turnover and she questions if students will receive an adequate amount of hours in counseling amid the shortage of staff.  

“It can really be a temporary Band-Aid,” Lewis said. 

Other students said they think the University is doing what it can. 

“At the same time, it falls on the students that we need to be there for each other and let each other know we’re here for one another,” said Jamison McDaniel, a UNC-CH senior. 

“I’m not sure if it’s the failure of CAPS or the University, I think there’s just a lot going on,” said Aurorah Arndt, a junior at UNC. 

Arndt is part of a service dog non-profit organization called, “Eyes, Ears, Nose, and Paws,” a group that brought their service dogs out on the lawn in front of Wilson Library on Wednesday to offer support to students. 

“We’re helping students de-stress and just letting them know that we care for them and support them,” Arndt said. 

This comes one day after UNC canceled classes on Tuesday so that students could have a “Mental Health” Day. Many students spent the day building and visiting memorials on campus for their peers who they recently lost to suicide. 

Below is more information on the mental services available to students at UNC-CH. 

  • Counseling and Psychological Service (CAPS) provides a wide range of mental health services and resources to all students. Those services include one-on-one, couples and group therapy, medication management, and referral coordination.     
  • During an initial assessment at CAPS, students complete a brief questionnaire and speak to mental health professionals who evaluate each student’s mental health needs, including risk of suicidality. The counselors then determine the best course of action moving forward, whether that be an immediate intervention of some kind or counseling support.  
  • CAPS 24/7 is an after-hours resource for students experiencing mental health crisis or distress. Students can call the CAPS phone number at 919-966-3658 after hours to connect with a mental health professional who can help.  
  • Another CAPS resource is the Multicultural Health ProgramMulticultural Health Program | Counseling and Psychological Services (unc.edu)which focuses on the needs of Black, Indigenous and Students of Color at UNC-Chapel Hill. It offers brief therapy, group therapy, and outreach.  
  • You can find a full list of the services and resources offered through CAPS .
  • Students can also contact the Dean of Students Dean of Students – Empowering Students (unc.edu) team for support. 
  • Also, if you want to apply for any of the open positions for counselors, click here.

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