Mental Health Services
The goal of the USP Mental Health Services is to go beyond the basic services provided by UC Berkeley and offer support tailored to the particular emotional, psychological, educational, social, and cultural well-being of undocumented students.
Undocumented students need culturally-competent servicesThe experience of migrating to the United States and being undocumented can result in post-traumatic stress disorder, fear of deportation, and career anxiety, among other stressors. The college experience of some of these students is also affected by feelings of shame and uncertainty, as well as experiences of real and perceived discrimination. All of these factors can have detrimental effects on both mental health and academic success.
Before we included mental health services as part of the USP, undocumented students repeatedly expressed the need for culturally-competent mental health support that would address their unique challenges.
Easy access and shorter wait times
In 2016, we hired a licensed psychologist to provide mental health support specifically tailored for undocumented students. In 2019, we were able to expand mental health services by hiring an additional psychologist.
In spring 2020, the top three presenting concerns selected by undocumented students on their intake questionnaires were anxiety, stress from academics, and depression.
Students find out about, or are referred to, the USP psychologist via myriad sources: the UC Berkeley Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), the university-wide Counseling & Psychological Services department, academic counselors, USP outreach, and word-of-mouth. Students are encouraged to stop by during one of the two weekly drop-in sessions, or to call the psychologist’s direct line to schedule an individual counseling appointment.
Students also meet the USP psychologists during community events and workshops organized in response to students’ thematic requests (for further information, see More Resources below).
On average there is a seven-day wait time between initial contact and the first appointment with the USP psychologists. This is substantially shorter than the average 12-day wait for an appointment with the campus Counseling and Psychological Services.
In its first two months, the service had 41 ongoing clients who were seen weekly and bi-monthly, and a handful of students who were seen with less frequency. Additionally, the psychologist saw approximately 58 undocumented students during anonymous “drop-in” clinic hours (four hours per week). Many students scheduled their first intake appointment after meeting the psychologist during drop-in hours. In the 19-20 academic year, our psychologists held over 700 individual sessions with students and 117 group attendees.
Drop-in sessions have key valueThe drop-in model is an especially promising intervention for undocumented students, in particular because it is anonymous: visits are tallied, but student data is not collected. Many of these students have had no prior access to health care and some are reluctant to open a public medical health record. Creating opportunities for students to see a psychologist without needing to fill out forms or make an appointment helps decrease stigma and cultivates trust, ensuring students get needed support. In the 19-20 academic year, 117 drop-in meetings took place.
Coordinating multiple dimensions of mental health
In addition to direct counseling, our mental health program helps coordinate multiple dimensions of student wellness for undocumented students.
For example, the USP psychologists provides education, seminars, committee membership, one-on-one outreach, and consultation to help the University’s Counseling & Psychological Services department, and the greater campus community, better recognize the unique mental health barriers faced by undocumented students.
As well, the psychologists lead efforts to coordinate our wrap-around mental health services model, which provides financial relief for psychiatric, pharmaceutical, and medical services related to mental health. To that end, the USP Psychologist worked closely with key staff at University Health Services (UHS) to initiate a fee-waiver process, in which grant funds remove financial barriers for students needing to access mental health services. As part of this relief, USP covers all co-pays for medication.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR GETTING STARTED
- Does your institution currently provide mental health services that are culturally-competent and designed to address the unique challenges of undocumented students?
- What would your existing health services department need in order to provide tailored mental health care undocumented students?
- Which other departments could you collaborate with in order to help increase mental health resources? – For example, academic counselors, other psychological or health departments, and outreach programs.
- What types of outreach could the mental health services department offer to increase campus understanding of the challenges faced by undocumented students?
- Is your mental health program able to provide both scheduled and drop-in appointments?
- What are some ways the institution could subsidize co-pays for medication?
Includes: Mental Health MOU between USP & UCB, Data on Service Utilization and Program Outreach