Mental health resources, stories shared at candlelight vigil
The Student Government Association hosted a candlelight vigil Thursday night hoping to raise awareness of suicide in light of a student’s death by suicide on campus Wednesday.
At the vigil, which was just outside the Counseling and Psychological Services office, SGA President Winni Zhang said she is concerned with awareness on campus and explained the importance of the candlelight vigil.
“The candlelight vigil, I think, is a moment for the community to come together and talk about something very important,” Zhang said. “In this case it’s suicide awareness.”
Volunteers set up paper bags with sand and candles around the fountains located behind Student Service Center 1. A lot of planning went into the event, Zhang said.
Many students attended the event and several spoke to representatives from CAPS about resources.
“As somebody who struggles with depression pretty frequently, it gets pretty hard doing it by yourself,” said history senior Keith Carnes, who was at the vigil. “There’s a lot of people who will tell you that you’ll wake up one day and you’ll beat it, but there’s not really any beating depression or any sort of mental illness. In my experience, it’s really about coming to terms to live with it and accept it.”
CAPS clinicians set up a booth at the vigil with brochures and pamphlets which provided information to students seeking help with any mental health issue, whether in a group or private setting.
The counseling office can be contacted in many ways, including through its website, by phone at 713-743-5454 and on a walk-in basis, CAPS Director Norma Ngo said.
“You don’t even have to think about making an appointment, just walk in,” Ngo said. “We’re also available after hours (by phone). Same number during the day, same number after hours.”
According to the Texas Tribune, the International Association of Counseling Services recommends a ratio of mental health staff to students of one to 1,000-1,500.
The University of Houston falls in last place among Texas schools in terms of the ratio of mental health staff to students, Zhang said.
“None of the big Texas schools meet the IACS recommended standards of one mental health professional to 1,500 students,” Zhang said. “Even the University of Texas, which supposedly has the best resources on campus, staff to student ratio is at, like, 1-1,700. So I think it’s time for legislation — for students to stand up and say that this is not right — and we plan on doing just that at this next Senate meeting.”
Since UH falls so low in meeting these standards, SGA is concerned with improving the University’s resources to help deal with mental health issues, Zhang said.
“Raising awareness isn’t enough,” she said. “We’re also working on raising funding for CAPS. What does it take on a state level for states to start providing funding to CAPS?”
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to include the correct phone number for UH’s Counseling and Psychological Services: 713-743-5454.