Throughout May, organizations and individuals across the country have celebrated Mental Health Awareness Month to raise awareness for and reduce the stigma of mental illnesses. Though the month is coming to a close, mental-health awareness initiatives and services are ongoing at Case Western Reserve University.
And with a new director of counseling at the University Health and Counseling Services, more is on the way.
“Many people are struggling with mental-health issues. Not everybody is exhibiting it or sharing about it,” said Richard Pazol, who became director in April after serving as interim director since October.
In accepting the position, Pazol, a clinical psychologist, has had to scale back his clinical work to focus more on the administrative demands of Counseling Services. That means less time with students, whom he said he admires for their ability to discuss their problems and ask for help—something he said he wouldn’t have necessarily felt comfortable doing as a student.
“I’m learning so much from them every single day, and I have to say, I’m in awe of the vast majority of them who are super bright, but still struggling with different things,” he said.
While his role at Case Western Reserve may be an ideal fit for Pazol, his career path was uncertain after graduating from the University of Michigan. He recalled being unsure about what to do with a psychology degree.
There wasn’t an immediate “click,” or a moment when he knew he’d work in counseling, he said. But over time, as a mental-health worker in Chicago, he realized he wanted to help people—specifically with mental illnesses—but still wasn’t quite sure where that would lead him.
Instead, that moment came in 2001, when he started working at Case Western Reserve as a staff therapist.
“Once I got here to Case [Western Reserve University] and here to the Counseling Services, that’s when I knew this is where I want to be,” Pazol said.
Pazol has since served in various roles, including assistant director, associate director and interim director. Since becoming director, he’s been working with his team to develop plans to further improve mental-health services for students.
“There are a lot of resources available for mental and physical health, as well as other support services,” he said. “We do try to communicate that during orientation and during outreach events, but I think [students] get inundated with so much information that sometimes it doesn’t penetrate until they feel like they need it.”
Recently, he and the staff at University Health and Counseling Services have eliminated wait times for students to access counseling. Any student who walks into the Sears Building office (Suite 220) weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. will be seen that day. Students who need help after hours can talk with a counselor by calling 216.368.5872.
And, in keeping with this academic year’s merger of the University’s Health and Counseling Services, Pazol’s team aims to implement more wellness initiatives to provide more prevention services in addition to responding to mental-health crises.
If you’re concerned about a friend, Pazol said: “Be open and aware and supportive. If [you] recognize that somebody’s struggling from depression or anxiety or some other mental-health issue, take some time to support them, but also see if [you] can get them connected to resources.”
And get to know Pazol better with this week’s 5 questions.
1. What do you like most about Cleveland?
Cleveland is just a really accessible city in terms of being able to take advantage of some world-class culture and music, foods and nightlife—and even areas to live and raise a family. It offers so many of these big-city opportunities, but it’s in a nice, medium-size city, so it’s much more manageable than, say, Chicago or New York.
2. What’s your favorite social media platform?
By default, it’s going to be Facebook because that’s the only one I’m on. I was a relatively late adopter—I got talked into joining—and I do see the benefits. I’ve been able to reconnect with folks from back in college and graduate school and people from growing up.
3. What was the most influential class you’ve ever taken?
There was a course in graduate school titled “Treatment Issues with Diverse Populations.” It was an experiential course where we sat down with the rest of our cohort from our graduate program and really bared it all in terms of our prejudices and judgments—racism, sexism, homophobia and these beliefs that we had grown up with—in order to be able to work through them and get past them and recognize those that we still carried around. It was fundamentally life-altering in that it’s changed my worldview. It made me incredibly aware of areas of privilege and areas of continued work I needed to do. That really has permeated everything that I’ve done since.
4. If you could meet any historical figure, who would you pick, and why?
Jacques-Yves Cousteau. I love SCUBA diving. He basically is credited with creating the modern SCUBA equipment. He’s a preservationist, he’s a researcher, he’s explored areas that I would love to explore in my life but will probably never get the chance to. I would love to have had the chance to sit down and talk with him and pick his brain.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
The students. They are high-powered in terms of intellect and ambition and creativity and ideas. And I am just blown away every single day by how much they bring to their education, to their work, how much they do outside of their schoolwork. If I had only half of what they have back when I was in either college or graduate school, it would have been world-changing.