Story by Mike Zweifel
When students in the College of Veterinary Medicine need someone to talk to for mental health and well-being support, they have a unique resource available to them.
Rather than walk across campus, they can talk with Kerry Karaffa, a licensed psychologist and mental health and wellness coordinator embedded in the College of Veterinary Medicine.
Karaffa is the only MU Counseling Center team member fully embedded within a school or college at MU. This allows students, interns and residents to have greater access to individual, confidential counseling.
Being on location in the college gives Karaffa a better understanding of veterinary medicine students and their stresses.
“The experiences of veterinary students are similar to other populations on campus, including depression and family stress,” he says, “but there are some added stresses for vet students that may not necessarily apply to all students.”
Karaffa came to the Counseling Center in 2015 for a one-year doctoral internship. He applied for his current job for several reasons.
“The Counseling Center is a supportive environment, and it feels like family,” he says, “Just starting out in my career, I can also get early career mentorship from my Counseling Center colleagues.”
Karaffa is a “scientist-practitioner,” both seeing clients and conducting research. The academic home is a perfect fit for Karaffa, whose love of psychology comes in large part from a desire to contribute to other people’s development.
He is interested in studying attitudes and beliefs about mental health services in colleges of veterinary medicine, as well as other barriers to accessing mental health care. The goal of his research is to bridge the gap between understanding veterinary students’ mental health needs and the needs of veterinary professionals in the field.
To keep a productive work/life balance, Karaffa attends concerts, goes on hikes with his partner in Rock Bridge State Park and enjoys herpetology, which is the study of amphibians and reptiles.
“I keep snakes, frogs, geckos – things like that,” he says.
Currently, he has seven snakes, two frogs, a gecko and three cats. The cats are separated from the reptiles for every animal’s current and future benefit.
As mental health and wellness awareness grows among college populations, Karaffa’s work will help provide current students with the services they need to overcome challenges, and his research will benefit future students, faculty and staff.
Joan Masters has helped build the Partners in Prevention coalition into a statewide force for college wellness.
Members of the Mizzou Student Suicide Prevention Coalition are working to raise awareness of mental health on campus.