Devin Eggert: Creating a new CAPS

By Devin Eggert, Columnist
Published September 14, 2014

My freshman year, I was depressed about life and in a situation that required immediate psychological services.
Now, don’t ask me why I wasn’t happy. I guess I, like many students, take off my Supergirl “M” costume when I get home and return not to my alter ego, Kara Zor-El, but back to a nerdy school girl who forgets she can fly. Regardless, after a long delay of procrastination due to stigma and fear, I had finally buckled down the courage to make an appointment at the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services, also known as CAPS.

Devin Eggert

The CAPS receptionist gave me two pathway options. I was faced with a decision: Become a crisis — a psychiatric emergency, with loud police sirens and a bill high enough to match my instability. Or wait a month for an appointment.

Was this a joke?

I can’t deal with a go left sign if you’re Van Gogh and go right if you’re Blair Waldorf and your date turned you down last Saturday. I can’t wait until the end of the month. I can’t even make it through the day. But, I’m not at the point where I need to be on “Grey’s Anatomy” or talk to Doctor Who in the ER about why I’m feeling like I’m dying. So instead of picking a side, I hid in my dorm room between classes and cried miserably.

But, tears can fuel your drive sometimes, if you can learn to turn the switch. And that’s what I did.

Being a powerhouse, I didn’t give up. I self-proclaimed my own solution to the problem of backed-up psychological appointments. “There will be a CAPS on North Campus. Not only will there be a CAPS, there will be a CAPS, SAPAC and Trotter-type building all in Pierpont.” Come, victimized people of the North, we shall lead a rebellion riding our slower-than-snails buses down the streets of Central Campus Ann Arbor!

I don’t want one person on campus to be alone like I was.

Of course, this movement didn’t come in the form of caped crusaders or a medieval army shouting QUEEN OF THE NORTH! It came in the form of long comment cards and advocacy meetings with grinning bureaucrats graciously answering, “That sounds like an excellent idea — let me do absolutely nothing about it.”

Four years later, no longer a freshman but a budding Daily columnist, I secured an interview with the CAPS Director Todd Sevig, for Student Suicide Awareness week. I had finally leveraged myself for my one-minute elevator pitch to change CAPS as we know it.

I waited in the same CAPS front room I had been in many times before filling out bubbled evaluation sheets to test my sanity. I nervously smoothed out my button-down shirt and checked to make sure my voice recorder worked.

Meanwhile, a dark-haired, quiet guy, whom I had already projected my own story on, entered the CAPS waiting room. Knowing how the journey of CAPS had gone for so many of my friends and me, I listened closer, waiting for the warm and smiling receptionist to unintentionally turn away his hesitant request for help …

“OK, I’ll go ahead and set you up with a consultation appointment,” the receptionist replied. “I’ll get you a meeting within the next one to three days.”

What? My head turned around.

“How’s tomorrow?”

What kind of world am I living in?

Just then, the director of CAPS came into the waiting room to shake my hand and lead me to his office.

“The wait time used to fluctuate from one to three weeks and that was what was uncomfortable,” Sevig explained. “And to be honest, it was uncomfortable for staff as well. We’re abolishing that whole concept. When a student comes in asking for an appointment, they will get an initial consultation appointment within one to three days. Now, our crisis option for students will still be available, but the reality is, we’ve listened to students and most prefer setting up an appointment.”

What? A department on campus that is actually receptive to student feedback?

“What we, as a staff, listened to was this critique that the wait for CAPS was too long. We overhauled the old system in response. We had to completely change our mindset,” Sevig said.

Sevig talked about a promotion of centralized efficiency, small changes adding up to suitable big changes and went over a newly created “draft” flowchart with me.

Centralized efficiency? He had found my kryptonite ... And a flow chart?
OMG it was too much to handle.

In response to my North Campus woes, Sevig agreed.

“CAPS has just initiated a new embedded counseling system this year within the school systems on North Campus,” Sevig said. “Currently we have a staff member in every school on North. It’s too early to tell, but so far it has been well-received.”

Well, let me tell you, after fighting an uphill battle in terms of getting prompt psychological services for my fellow students, I could not be more pleased with the CAPS team’s response to the need for faster services. The director of CAPS asked me to encourage anyone who does utilize any type of service at CAPS to give feedback, because it has been invaluable in the process. I feel like I can hang my cape on this issue, though.

Congrats, CAPS, that was a big win for you in my comic book.

Devin Eggert can be reached at deeggert@umich.edu.