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Stressful culture contributes to CAPS waitlist

You’d wait nine months for a baby to be born, a few weeks for your boots to be delivered, and one minute and 40 seconds for your Hot Pocket to be thoroughly cooked, but would you wait up to three weeks for counseling and psychological services? If you looked into making an appointment at Carnegie Mellon’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) recently, you may have found the waitlist to be about that long.

At first glance, it’s easy to criticize CAPS — who can wait more than a few days if they have a serious emotional or psychological problem? Still, CAPS does provide a phone number for emergencies, available 24/7, and CAPS will schedule same-day appointments within their office hours if necessary for a student’s well-being. But knowing that there’s a wait for appointments can be discouraging to someone with a problem. CAPS does a service to the campus community by offering 12 free counseling sessions per student per year, but once you use the 12, you’re left searching for other alternatives.

On their websites, other universities like Case Western, Brown, MIT, and Johns Hopkins list several reasons that students seek out their on-campus counseling services, which generally include relationship problems, academic stress, anxiety and depression, loneliness, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Carnegie Mellon’s CAPS website also includes reasons like assertiveness, perfectionism, procrastination, self-confidence, stress management, and time management as “Common Concerns” for students on campus.

No college should have an environment where perfectionism, self-confidence, and stress- and time-management issues are so prevalent. What kind of culture have we created at Carnegie Mellon that these are common concerns — so common that CAPS sometimes gets backlogged for weeks?

It’s popular campus culture to competitively complain about how much work you have. We need to stop associating work, and the time associated with our work, with our self-worth. It starts a domino effect into other parts of our lives; for instance, extensive amounts of work inhibit the ability to form healthy relationships, which can keep us from being lonely. As a campus community, we are handicapping ourselves by thinking that “Carnegie Mellon” equates to “sleepless nights.” Our peers are motivating each other to a destructive level, and it’s time for that to change.

It’s not just students affecting students, though. Some professors are ignorant to the amount of work their students have in other classes, and are quick to dismiss extracurriculars that can be just as influential, instructive, and important to learning as classwork is. Professors who are open to accepting late papers and projects on the condition that students explain their work situation can be a godsend. To have more understanding professors would help how we handle our work loads, and in turn how we feel about ourselves.

Now is the nexus of stress-induced anxiety for students, as midterms are upon us. Use the time you spend telling people about all the work you have to do to just do your work. Professors, please recognize that yours is not the only class we have. We need to help ourselves, so that CAPS can function to its fullest potential.