CCPH offers free drop-in sessions with counselors


(Jon Decker/Amherst Wire)

AMHERST  One in four college students have a diagnosable mental illness, but less than 40 percent of them seek help for it, according to a study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

In an effort to support students going through a tough time who are not in counseling, the University of Massachusetts Center for Counseling and Psychological Health (CCPH) is now offering walk-in counseling sessions for free every week for the rest of the semester.

The program has been dubbed “Let’s Talk” by its creators. The campus website states “no topic is off limits” and encourages any and all students to attend. Participants are encouraged to chat about anything that is on their minds, including school, relationships, anxiety and more.

Sessions occur several times a week at various locations across campus. Students pay nothing up front for these walk-in services. They are covered by the student health service fee, which every enrolled student has already paid.

Linda Scott, a staff member of CCPH since 1988, initiated Let’s Talk at the UMass campus.

Let’s Talk is a step down from counseling, making it easier for those who may be afraid or unable to seek assistance. It is informal, confidential, and noncommittal. Students can come only when they need it and talk about what’s on their minds.

Students who are on the fence about counseling can go to one of these sessions and if needed, get a referral for regular counseling.

Normally, when a student wishes to schedule an appointment for  standard counseling, it can take from several weeks to a month to get an appointment. According to Scott, students have scheduled these appointments to talk about smaller problems facing them, their friends and their families that could have been more easily addressed with in a session like Let’s Talk.

Nupur Jain, a coordinator of Let’s Talk, says the program really helps other university counseling centers with the flow of patients.

She noted it is not uncommon to see college counseling centers working at 200 to 250 percent of their capacity.

Above creating efficiency and reaching out to all groups, the main goal of Let’s Talk is to put students first.

“We want to get to a student before there’s a problem,” Scott said.

According to Jain, there can be stigma in international groups surrounding mental illnesses and treatment. Let’s Talk attempts to use their diverse staff to reach out to and support these individuals.

Last year, the program was given a test run. Attendance was lower than coordinators hoped, though the sessions that did occur were deemed successful, Scott sa.

The next Let’s Talk session will be held Monday, Oct. 24 from 5-5:30 p.m. in the UMass Campus Center, Room 177.

The full list of sessions for the 2016-17 academic year can be found on the CCPH website.

Email Jon at [email protected].

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