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Dear Bwog: CPS Edition

These smiling people have your best interest in mind.

These beautiful people have your best interest in mind.

This past week Bwog received an email from a fellow student in need of a little guidance:

Can you write about CPS and mandatory leaves of absence? I’m nervous that if I talk to them about depression related issues, I will have to leave school.

Bwog cares immensely about student wellness and mental health on campus, which is why it’s decided to kick off a two-part series on navigating Columbia Psychological Services. This is an issue that hides beneath our gleaming columns and that many find difficult to confront head on, but it is an issue that affects nearly half of all students at Columbia, according to statistics from CPS. It is unfortunate, then, that so many people find themselves overwhelmed and confused by how to actually go about seeking help. That’s why in the coming week, this Bwogger will be working on compiling an insider’s guide to CPS policy and services.

But in the meantime, I’d like to give a quick answer to our tipster.

CPS is a place full of people who are here to help you. It can be a scary process to open up to someone you’ve never met before, but you have to trust that they have your best interests at heart. (That has certainly been my experience.) When you first contact CPS, you should call (212) 854-2878 for an appointment.A psychologist will ask you a few initial intake questions and evaluate your current mental state. After that, they’ll help you schedule an appointment at CPS’s main office on the 8th floor of Lerner. It might be awhile before you’re able to be seen. That’s not because they don’t care, but because of a large demand for service and a rather small staff to provide it. You should feel free to talk about anything and everything that is on your mind. I know that I have opened up about feeling hopeless, paranoid that I couldn’t trust my counselor, anxious about coming in, unsure that anything was worth it. They were always there to listen.

You didn’t explicitly mention self-harm and I’m working on finding more information on CPS’s policy regarding this issue, but it is my opinion that you should express 100% of how you feel no matter what. Sometimes it’s difficult to admit that we need to take some time for ourselves, and it’s something I’ve personally had to consider. Ultimately, you just have to be honest with yourself and understand that no class, grade, or semester is worth your happiness and physical well-being. Do whatever it is you need to do. Then come back and kick ass.

For anyone else who feels like they need to talk with someone we have provided a list of important numbers as well as a chart showing all CPS drop-in locations and times below. Remember, this too will pass. And no matter what, Bwog still loves you.

People who care via Columbia CPS

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  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I feel like “hard pill to swallow” is not the best term for this article…

    1. I was literally... says:

      @I was literally... about to say the same thing. You just talked about self-harm and depression issues. How could you use that cliche phrase that relates so much to suicide?

    2. Zach Hendrickson says:

      @Zach Hendrickson I’m really sorry about that. I take full responsibility. It was a gross oversight on my part. It is changed now.

      Thanks for pointing this out.

      1. dear world says:

        @dear world this is what a good apology looks like.

  • not true says:

    @not true they often force hospitalizations and leaves of absence for days or weeks at a time, even for students who do not mention self-harm. if students do mention it, then they make them leave so that they hurt themselves off campus, keeping columbia’s image clean. They are abusive and will often lie to your face.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous ^not true. I mentioned self harm at CPS and I’m still here, no forced leave. troll

      1. Same ^ says:

        @Same ^ same

      2. unnecessary but sufficient says:

        @unnecessary but sufficient the fact that mentioning self-harm does not always lead to forced hospitalization is not evidence against the claim that there sometimes are forced hospitalizations, or even that there are sometimes forced hospitalizations even when self-harm isn’t mentioned.

  • Blunts in Butler says:

    @Blunts in Butler I got a different kind of treatment in mind. How does a hotbox holiday sound?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous The author seems to think that the reason people wouldn’t want to be forced to take a leave of absence is that it would interfere with a “class, grade, or semester”, but from my experience with CPS and talking with other students that isn’t the case. The real issue is that for a lot of students their only support systems are here at Columbia, and that if they were forced to leave they would lose access to a that support. A lot of students do have the option of going back to a hometown with a lot of resources and support, but many students don’t , they don’t have a stable home life or a close circle of friends outside of CU that they can rely on to help them in the way their friends here can. The student who asked the question might very well be in a situation where being forced to leave whatever support system they have here would threaten their “happiness and physical well-being”.

    I’m not saying that a leave of absence is never helpful – for many people it can do an extraordinary amount of good – but it’s not right for everyone. Students have the right to know if by going to CPS they risk being forced to take a leave of absence that they feel would be harmful to their mental health.

    1. Zach Hendrickson says:

      @Zach Hendrickson You’re absolutely right. I am working on digging into the specifics of medical leaves of absence. They aren’t right for everyone. I was just trying to give my opinion. I ultimately think that everyone should weigh out options for themselves.

      I hope to touch on a lot more specifics next week, but in the meantime I wanted to post something that I felt could help the majority of students who might be struggling with mental health issues. Or at least offer some comforting advice on how to go about receiving help, which can be a very scary process.

      Please look out for my continued coverage of CPS next week, where I hope to have a lot more concrete answers.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Trigger Warning for depression related things:

    I don’t know what the official policy is at CPS, but I can offer some anecdotal evidence. I have experience with depression related issues, including major depression, self-harm, and suicide ideation and have been going to CPS on and off for about 3 1/2 years to talk about these issues. The idea of forced medical leave or hospitalization has never come up in any of my sessions with psychologists or psychiatrists at CPS. They have also never asked me if the self harm occurred at Columbia as someone above said.
    In general, I find the people at CPS to be genuinely caring people who really are concerned with what is best for you and your health. That said, the thing that I didn’t know about CPS until I went there is that CPS (or at least all of the people I’ve seen) isn’t there as resource for weekly therapy sessions. They’re there as a resource to help you figure out and assess what your issues are. If you happen to need more intensive care after that, then they really want you to go to an outside psychiatrist/psychologist who can be more attentive to your needs, which is understandable considering the number of students CPS sees. They will help you find a permanent therapist (recommendations based on who your insurance covers and who practices nearby), and you can sign a release so that your primary therapist can talk to people you’ve spoken to at CPS.

    But overall, CPS is a really great resource for students here who are dealing with these problems, and I wouldn’t be afraid to go out of fear that they’ll make you leave school. If you need help, get help.

    Yep. That’s about all I have to say about that.

  • j says:

    @j i often brought up with my cps therapist suicidal ideation and a leave was never suggested, let alone forced. i eventually got the idea that a medical leave would be useful and literally had to beg to be given a medical leave, she seemed reluctant to let me leave school… maybe feared my homelife/lack of CU network could do more damage than good. point is, absolutely the furthest thing from forced. can’t make the same promise for you as all therapists at cps are different although technically operating under the same guidelines. in any event, i would never avoid going to cps if you think you might want to speak with someone. that’s a sign–your brain is telling you it needs help. my worry about cps is more related to quality of therapists and schedule flexibility (often it’s harder to see someone weekly, and you need to see someone AT LEAST weekly for it to work)… so i’d recommend seeing someone off-campus if at all possible. if you have the student insurance (aetna) you will need to go to cps to get a referral to go off campus (otherwise your insurance won’t cover it… but the referral is not for a specific therapist, just to go outside cps… so you have full say in the choice of who to see. however, if you want it, cps will help you with a pre-screened list of nearby, trusted in-network providers. no info is exchanged i.e. they are not spies for cps/columbia they are true separate outside providers and they would need a release form signed by you to do anything like that). if you don’t have the school insurance/have insurance from home you can see anyone in the city who is in-network. if you don’t find covered providers in nyc because your insurance plan is more locally based and you’re not from around here, call your insurance company to see if they have partnerships or will give you access to a ny metro area plan. also ask about your out-of-network benefits. then you can see anyone, pay upfront, and get reimbursed by your insurance company. but the reimbursement probably won’t cover the full cost so make sure to check the reimbursement rate and to ask your therapist about sliding scale fees. finally, don’t worry too much about all the details and just start by seeing SOMEONE who is a mental health professional (skyping home is not a supplement). even if it’s cps or you don’t like them, it’s getting your toes in the water… they can at least help you work out a plan for picking someone else, getting covered by insurance, etc. i just provided all this info because i did not have help from anyone when i was depressed and had to figure all the nonsense out on my own. so regardless of how you are doing, i don’t think you should have the added stress or anxiety of incomplete/unhelpful information and i wanted to provide some. which is why the bottom line is to get to someone so you can have help making a plan to get better. and call nightline if you can’t get yourself to cps!!!! 212-854-7777

  • anon says:

    @anon does anyone know cps’ attitude toward borderline personality disorder?

  • Don't forget says:

    @Don't forget Please mention that there is the Furman Counseling Center available for Barnard students as well!

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