Sol Spaces

My Breakup Letter to University Mental Health Services

Excerpt: I’m writing this because I want to say bye to you – thank you, for letting me know that there *must* be something better out there. 

By Ine, Sol Health writer
July 21, 2023
4 min read

My Breakup Letter to University Mental Health Services

Excerpt: I’m writing this because I want to say bye to you – thank you, for letting me know that there *must* be something better out there. 

By Ine, Sol Health writer

July 21, 2023

4 min read

Dear Campus Health,

We bumped into each other on campus on the very first day. I met you in the red campus auditorium. The Dean introduced me to you actually, and I remember being skeptical about you at first – you took a backseat to all the friends that I met that first week, the endless darties, my anticipation of a heightened coursework and – gasp – having to figure out what I would do for a living in four years. I remember I didn’t even have to ask for your number, you just gave it to me, and I tucked it away in a folder of a million other handouts they gave that day, and I didn’t really give you a second thought, since I knew I wouldn’t really need you anyways and, if I needed to find you, the CAPS contact info would always be around. 

How funny that is, that I thought you were so easy and willing and bountiful that first time I met you. 

Until maybe two months later, a pretty October night, when the leaves were falling and I was in my dorm room courtyard calling my brother for the second time that week (it was Tuesday). It was 2AM my time, and tears could not stop falling down my face. 

“I don’t know what’s wrong,” I said to him. “I just feel… so empty… as if I worked so hard to get into this school and as if it’s all culminated to this and as if the coursework is fine and my friends are fine and and I’m not too stressed but I’m just…nothing is wrong but everything is so, so wrong” and I burst into tears again. 

A five hour flight on the other coast, with his own busy life, my other brother’s rumbly voice tried to comfort me: “But the university has mental health services, right? Would you want to start there? Here, check the link I just sent you.”

And that’s how fate led me to you. 

Well, it turned out maybe you were a bit squeamish to meet me so soon when I actually needed you, because Campus Health’s online scheduling system only had spots two weeks out or longer to see you. I heard from an acquaintance-of-an-acquaintance I could fake being “just a bit suicidal to see CAPS,” but it felt a little too morally incorrect, a little too Romeo and Juliet. But I tried to swallow my impatience to see you, rationalizing it was fine, I was FINE, because I made you wait two months, right?! (read: it wasn’t okay, not at all actually). 

Here’s how I would describe the anticipation of meeting you.

I ditched my English Lit class, hell-bent on seeing you. Clearing my jam-packed schedule for the next two weeks, that's how crucial this rendezvous was to me. Anxiety and excitement mixed as I raced twenty minutes east, searching for an unfamiliar building where therapy awaited me for the very first time. My heart drummed loudly, partly from being late (thanks to a seven-minute sprint after getting lost) and partly from the whole therapy ordeal.

Arriving at the waiting area, I fidgeted nervously. Damn, there were way too many people here trying to see a therapist, all vying for attention. I tried not to size up the competition, particularly the guy who looked just like Ben from Russian Lit. The place operated like a well-oiled machine with people moving in and out of therapy rooms, reminding me of an optimization problem from my operations class. Why was I so nervous about how many others were there when I was supposed to be focusing on the soul-baring session between us?

Finally, they called my name, and my feet carried me through the maze of chairs, past Ben's former spot, and down the dark hallway until I met you at last.

When I meet you I don’t get to open up much. You ask me my name, date of birth, campus ID, things I think you should already know about me (given the fact that I already gave the receptionist all my information, like all of it, and you have access to my medical records). You ask me what’s wrong (“I don’t know.” “You don’t know?” “Well, like –” “Is coursework going okay?” “Yes.” “Are you connected to campus groups?” “Yes.” “Are you maintaining your stress levels” “Well, it’s not different from normal, but–” “Okay, good.”). The whole time, you’re glued to your computer and writing things down. 

I try to understand; it seems like you want to check things off or write them down for some sort of intake process. But I can’t understand. 

It’s five minutes left and you turn to me. It’s the first time you’ve looked me in the eye, really looked me in the eye. 

“Am I depressed?” I ask.

“Well, it’s hard to say….”

“My brother said it would be good to probably see you guys often, at least until I feel better.”

You spin back to your computer. “...What’s your insurance?”

“...I have no idea. How does that work?” 

You start clicking around on the screen again. “I think we should find you a therapist that supports your insurance.” 

“Can I not get treated here, at campus mental health services? Like isn’t this for students?”

“Yes, But we’re short term. You want something long term.”

“But… don’t you have to find out if I’m depressed before I get a referral? I don’t even know how insurance works.”

“Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. There’s a lot of ways to do therapy, and we don’t have the resources to maintain long term relationships with our students, hence, referrals.” You motion to the screen. “Oof,” glancing at the clock, you crease your eyebrows, genuinely apologetic. “We’re out of time. I’ll email you a list of therapists tonight.”

“Can I come again? This is my first time.” I usually don’t beg and I find it funny, this role reversal, me on the metaphorical ground for you. I’m having trouble figuring out who to be mad and sad at. 

“I’m sorry, I really have to see the next person. You can make an appointment through the website if anything comes up though.”

“Wait, I–” I turn to face you in the doorframe, one last time to see if maybe there could be an exceptio–

You give me a smile, genuine and sincere, one that reads you want—you really, really want—to help me, but fate (read: business models, short term therapy) made it so we couldn’t. And so the door shuts gently but surely in my face.

The only things left to say to you:

I want to say for the two months that you existed in the back of my mind as someone I could rely on but hadn’t relied on yet, I liked you, Campus Mental Health. I trusted you. But when the time came to do what you said you could, you couldn’t. 

On the one hand I get it. There’s too many people trying to trust you. Student therapy services have to manage the decaying mental state of thousands of university students, most of them leaving in less than four years. It’s no wonder in some campuses they allow students only three free visits officially, in my case even less unofficially. But I’ve since found someone better – a therapist who understands me, a therapist who wasn’t a changing face, who knows the names of my brothers, my best friends, my favorite subjects in college, the fact that I like to smell perfumes that waft like matcha and sink my hands into chunky knit sweaters when I’m stressed. 

I'm writing this to express my gratitude, Campus Mental Health even though you left me hung-up, taken aback, fiercely alone facing that closed door that spring semester. Thank you, for letting me realize that there must be something better out there for me.


Ine 💗