According to a recent survey conducted across the country, 85 percent of university counseling center directors reported a significant increase in the number of students using mental health services. In response to this trend, Gannett: Cornell University Health Services, has welcomed a new director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Dr. Gregory Eels, to address the increasingly pressing issue of mental health on campus.
“One of the things that attracted me to this position is that there is a real commitment to mental health here at Cornell,” said Eels. “I think the university is thinking far into the future by seeing a trend that has been recognized nationally.”
Specifically, Eels has placed emphasis on dealing with suicide prevention, substance abuse and eating disorders.
“I think the stakes are highest with those issues,” he said. “This is an environment that does have a lot of stress and pressure and it’s important that people know there is help out there — they don’t have to do these things on their own — and there’s not a stigma attached to it. … It’s ok to ask for help if you need it.”
In addition, Eels is in the process of implementing programs to target certain student communities, which may be underserved through traditional services, through outreach programs.
“People for whatever reason may not be seeking our services, so we try to do some things in a non-traditional way to reach the people who aren’t being reached in those traditional ways,” Eels said.
For example, Dr. Velma Williams at CAPS currently hosts “Sister Chat” meetings during which African-American students can discuss their concerns in a less formal setting. Gannett programs also target the Latino community, LGBT students and Asian American students among other groups. Eels is currently working to develop a program targeted at graduate students.
Eels is also considering the creation of an eating disorders clinic within Gannett in the future. The clinic would integrate social workers from CAPS, medical nurses and nutritionists.
“To integrate that is just so important,” Eels said. “To be in the same building, and be part of the same organization — you are going to get care as a student that would be pretty rare to get out there unless you pay lots and lots of money.”
Eels got his masters at Eastern Illinois University and his Doctorate at Oklahoma State, and spent the last seven and a half years at University of Southern Mississippi as a counselor, and later director of Counseling and Services for over five years.
In addition to serving as director of CAPS, Eels is an associate director of Gannett and part of Gannett’s steering team.
“Greg has brought great new energy, fresh ideas and enthusiasm to CAPS. Although he has only been here a couple of months, it is already clear that he is committed to providing high quality counseling services to Cornell students,” said Randy Patterson, a CAPS therapist.
The dynamic, fast-pace of a university drew Eels to college student counseling. He enjoys working in an academic environment which his says continually challenges him to be aware of his surroundings and his field. In addition, he enjoys working with students who, during their college years, are undergoing great changes.
“You’re working with students who have the flexibility to change … There is a certain dynamic atmosphere here to see people who are 18, 19, 20, 21 — they’re making changes that can move their lives in different directions … you are also reaching people in this critical time in their development,” he said.
Currently, Gannett has one of the largest counseling and psychological services divisions in the country. CAPS includes 23 professional staff members and 5 support staff members.
According to Sharon Dittman, associate director of community relations at Gannett, “Our staff size [within CAPS] has doubled in the last 7 years and the client number has paralleled that … We have students who are saying, ‘I’m waiting too long,’ and so we add more staff, but as soon as we add more staff, the number of students grows by the same amount.”
Eels is dedicated to addressing this overwhelming national trend.
“There’s definitely more of a change in the national landscape, and the expectation is you need to be more cautious, especially where students lives are at risk — you have to take more of an active role,” he said.
Archived article by Stacey Delikat