NOTE: If you or someone you know has an urgent mental health concern please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.
ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – It has been almost a year since Cornell graduate students held a protest calling for changes to the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
Thea Kozakis is one of the student mental health activists.
She is a graduate student in astrophysics and recently said this time last year students were really frustrated by how hard it was for graduate students to get an appointment with CAPS.
Kozakis and other graduate students staged two protests and tried unsuccessfully to talk to Cornell University President Martha Pollack.
Students said they used to have to get a phone interview before they could be seen by a therapist. They said that getting that phone appointment could take a week and even longer for an in-person appointment.
Kozakis had a mental health crisis three years ago and said that the week-long wait almost cost her her life. She talked about it at a rally last December.
“I was in such a severe crisis state that I was just living minute by minute,” she told the crowd. “And there were a lot of minutes in that week leading up to my [phone] assessment and that whole time I was in severe crisis and I was very suicidal.”
“I honestly don’t know how I got through that,” Kozakis added
Once she was able to speak to someone, Kozakis got help quickly. She credits CAPS with helping her. But, she said getting the help she needed was very difficult.
Several students also said that getting an in-person appointment if you were not in immediate danger of harming yourself could take a month or more.
“We were asking basically for it to be easier for graduate students to be seen in CAPs and in a more timely manner,” Kozakis said of the student’s demands.
She said now students can choose different long or short in-person sessions and the wait for the appointments is shorter. There are still more changes graduate students want but she says things are definitely getting better.
Cornell representatives said they were not immediately available to comment.
Full Disclosure: Cornell University is a WSKG underwriter.