Mental Health for iSchool Students
Published: October 18, 2020 by Leslie Parry
The pandemic drags on, wildfires are burning and a high-stakes election looms. Meanwhile iSchool students are working hard to meet everyday challenges, balancing classes with jobs, families and other commitments. As members of the information community, we are likely drawn to systems, service and structure, which can all seem a little tenuous right now. How do we take care of ourselves during a time of anxiety and uncertainty? One valuable, free and currently virtual resource at San José State University is CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services). CAPS offers a variety of mental health and wellness services, including counseling, support groups, workshops and referrals. I asked Cat Fillmore, a faculty counselor and case manager, what resources she recommends for graduate students during this time.
First, she says, “I would just encourage people to… listen to their bodies and listen to their minds, and trust when something is not right or when something needs to be explored.” She adds that the feeling of collective grief and anxiety is pervasive lately. People are grappling with COVID-19 losses, racial trauma and a volatile economy. They’re also mourning the loss of plans and celebrations, a sense of normalcy. Unhealthy patterns (poor sleep, incessant doom-scrolling, bad eating habits, increased substance consumption) “could be growing warning signs of stress,” she says. Still, don’t wait for things to become unbearable before seeking help. “Counseling is for normal people with normal problems,” she explains. “You can always benefit from someone who listens well and gives unbiased support and warmth and kindness in a safe space.”
Personal Counseling Through CAPS
Available for regular session students.
“Right now students can come in and get connected with a counselor fairly easily and fairly quickly,” Fillmore says. Individual counseling can help students work through a number of issues, including depression, stress, loneliness and self-esteem. Students receive eight sessions per calendar year, which – because of the pandemic – can be done remotely. “There’s a lot of work that can be done in those eight sessions, particularly if students are doing good work in between sessions.” If students have a partner who also attends SJSU, CAPS also provides couples counseling.
Fillmore notes that counselors work with people of all ages, circumstances, backgrounds and identities, including people who are “partnered, married, have kids, have mortgages.” So don’t be deterred by the idea that services are undergrad-focused. “The reality is that we work with anybody and everybody.”
Life Skills Workshops
While CAPS is bound by legal and professional requirements to provide therapy only to those in California, any matriculated student, no matter where they live, can take advantage of the life skills workshops.
Weekly workshops and support groups can help students develop skills and awareness in a number of different areas. Life skills workshops, which are designed to enhance educational and personal success, cover a variety of practical and existential topics, including resilience, focus and procrastination.
Peer groups allow students to connect to each other, offer mutual encouragement and foster a sense of community. There are groups geared toward LGBTQ+ students, international students, men and women, as well as groups focused on mindfulness and reducing anxiety. “With all of these things taking place online, there’s actually an ease for some students in the iSchool that they might not have actually had before,” Fillmore says. “Now could be a perfect time [to take advantage of these opportunities], because you don’t actually have to be local in order to use our services.” All sessions are conducted through Zoom.
Graduate Student Support Group
What are some unique challenges that graduate students face? Especially in an online program, Fillmore says, “There may not be as many natural avenues [for grad students] to get involved. For a lot of them, they’re starting this new chapter of their lives, but they’re trying to figure out how to connect with people in [their] cohort. How do I make connections to my peers?” SJSU is a large community and it can be a challenge to find the right channel, especially if you’re looking to connect with others who have similar life experiences.
To support this, CAPS is launching a new group this semester. The graduate student support group will be held Thursdays at 11 am on Zoom. They’re currently screening for participants.
Available for regular session students.
Educational counseling through CAPS is designed for students who may be struggling with executive functioning skills, such as time management and self-motivation. If a student is having academic difficulties or feeling directionless, CAPS Educational Programs can help create a plan with achievable goals.
Both regular and special session students have access to the iSchool’s extensive career development resources. For help with academic planning, consult the iSchool’s comprehensive toolkit or connect with a faculty advisor. The SJSU Career Center is another excellent resource for advice, programs and opportunities.
Connections to Other Campus Resources
CAPS works closely with many other resource centers on campus. If medication is needed or desired, counselors can refer students to doctors at the Student Health Center. If eight counseling sessions aren’t enough, or if students need more help in other areas, case management is available. Counselors actively connect students with appropriate support networks, including the UndocuSpartan Student Resource Center, the Mosaic Cross Cultural Center, the Chicanx/Latinx Student Success Center, the African-American/Black Student Success Center and SJSU Cares.
To make an appointment or get more information, call the CAPS office at 408-924-5910. You can also check out their resources for self-help online here. The iSchool has a roundup of online wellness resources as well. If you’re in dire straits, please reach out for crisis intervention or contact one of the helplines below.