University health services provide affirmative LGBTQ + mental health resources
The mental health resources UC Berkeley has for queer, transgender or QT students can be found on the Pride page of the University Health Services (UHS) website.
According to Elizabeth Aranda, UHS Counseling and Psychological Services or CAPS, UC Berkeley is “really at the forefront” of LGBTQ + mental health and wellness resources.
“(These resources) are available to all students as they can access all UHS services,” said Em Huang, director of LGBTQ + Advancement and Equity at the Gender Equity Resource Center or GenEq. “They are free for all students. … there is also a list of queer and trans-identified counselors you can connect with. “
Eighteen LGBTQ + counselors are highlighted on the UHS website as part of the CAPS team, each with their own specialties within the queer community. Aranda noted that the Transgender Care team is specially developed and even leads inter-UC campus meetings to discuss the uniquely effective aspects of the program, such as its gendered services and medical advice.
Huang added that the CAPS team made a full switch online. This includes online drop-in consultations such as Q-Talk so that students can avoid CAPS waiting times.
“We still do online services,” said Aranda. “We offer queer-specific individual and group counseling, for example the queer men’s group, the queer women’s group … groups for different identities.”
Aranda, who also serves as the wellness coordinator for the Multicultural Community Center, found that she is adding an important intersectional lens to her work. Intersectionality can be embodied through “culturally competent” counselors who avoid making assumptions about people’s needs, Huang added.
In this way, identity-conscious and competent counselors can better cater to the unique experiences and challenges of QT students, said Huang, especially if they are queer or trans themselves.
“Overlapping QT, BIPOC counselors, and people in social services appeal to different forms of wellbeing,” said Huang. “It’s really important to have people who can connect with experiences that people have so that people don’t just have to explain and explain.”
These resources are largely developed by campus groups with a “self-serving interest in the queer and trans communities”; According to Huang, who also co-chairs the committee, the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on LGBTQ Communities at Cal is a body that brings these groups together.
Huang noted that the committee consists of students, faculty, and ex officio members from other campus groups – including GenEq and UHS. This cross-section of campus units is then able to work together and communicate the needs of LGBTQ + students to the Chancellor from a variety of relevant perspectives.
“A mental health resource isn’t something that covers everyone,” Huang said. “By being able to engage with each student’s needs and experience, (the committee) addresses those needs and creates connection points as we continue to address the stigma surrounding mental health.”
The committee prepares an annual briefing for the Chancellor, Huang added. This close contact with the Chancellery will facilitate progress in helping LGBTQ + students, Huang said, as queer and trans-affirming practices expand to every corner of campus.
Aranda has recently seen an increase in diversity, equity, and inclusion practices pouring into the general campus population. Different campus sectors have become more open to integrating queer-focused curricula and strengthening the mental health of LGBTQ + people, noted Aranda.
“We’re out there trying to get a message across, teaching and educating people, hoping that at the end of the day they’ll want to do their part,” said Aranda.
The expansion of reliable online mental health resources provides that connection to a affirmative community that makes it easier for QT students to access essential hormonal treatments, mental health resources, and other support services, Aranda said.
The student home environment may not be as accepted as the campus, Aranda added, making the accessibility and consistency of QT resources particularly important to the campus mental health.
“Our existence is resistance,” said Aranda. “We’re really trying to expand and diversify options and access to resources by working with campus to really shift to a thriving mentality where pride is not just a month or day of the year, but something that we all do. “
Contact Katherine Shok at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @katherineshok.