I hadn’t attended class in weeks. I couldn’t keep up with assignments, I barely left my room. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I knew it was time to seek help. If you find yourself in a crisis like mine, here’s what you need to know:
Call (510) 642-9494 to make an appointment with University Health Services—any student can do this, regardless of insurance. It took me a long time to make the call; I had no experience with mental health professionals and I assumed that my symptoms weren’t “severe” enough to bother with. Don’t make that judgment yourself, the intake staff at UHS can determine what kind of care is best for you.
Drop-in counseling is available at their offices in the Tang Center. Now, call their phone line and state that you would like “Drop-in urgent counseling.” This is very useful for immediate help — you’ll probably have to wait at least two weeks before getting an appointment with a counselor the regular way. Urgent is a very loose term: you can qualify for urgent care if you are having thoughts of self-harm, or if you haven’t attended class in a week, among other reasons. I recommend taking an urgent counseling session whenever possible.
If you do not qualify for drop-in urgent counseling, you can take a walk-in, virtual Let’s Talk Counseling session. Just sign up online. Either way, it’s better than waiting.
About your University counselor: they are (in my experience) all very nice, helpful people that are on your side. But they are overburdened and underpaid by the university, so your meetings with them will be limited to three sessions a semester, two weeks apart between sessions.
Suffice to say, this is not a lot of time. I suspected I had depression, but I was too shy to be pushy with a diagnosis with my counselor; instead, I settled for describing my symptoms and experiences. This isn’t the right approach: there’s just not enough time with your counselor to play detective like that. Observe your symptoms on your own time, then consult the internet, talk to your friends, or reach out to Peer advising, and come up with a name for what you might be suffering from. Communicating this with your counselor ensures that you’ll get the kind of help you need quicker.
As you can see, the biggest problem with Berkeley’s mental health services is that it is S L O W ! It is very difficult to rely on the University’s slow-ass mental health services to help you while you’re still trying to complete schoolwork. UHS can hook you up with the school’s pretty generous Disabled Students Program (you should always do this), reduce your courseload, or change your grading option. Another option to consider is withdrawing from school for medical reasons (by the way, SHIP lasts ‘till the end of the semester even if you withdraw).
If you do decide to stay in school, make sure to be frank and open with your professors that you are struggling with your mental health; your counselor can even write a letter of “proof” that you can show your professors. Even if you aren’t in the DSP program (they’re ALSO SLOW), the professor might offer you accommodations regardless.
The university does not adequately fund its mental health programs! You’ll have to advocate for yourself to get the help you need.
In crisis? Pause, take a breath. Call a hotline or somebody you trust.