As a new semester begins, West Virginia University is increasing services to address students’ emotional and mental health needs and promote the awareness of resources available.
The University launched a partnership with Talkspace this month. Talkspace has a network of thousands of credentialed clinicians and has been used by more than one million people, matching them with a licensed therapist that best suits their needs. Students in Morgantown, Beckley, Keyser and those taking classes online, can now use the Talkspace app to text and chat with licensed therapists via private messaging and live video anytime, anywhere – at no cost.
Talkspace communication is confidential and secure. No one at the University (or anywhere else) will know who uses the service or for what purpose. Students access the system by entering their WVU MIX email address at talkspace.com/wvu.
Expanded campus support and services
In light of this growing demand for services, the Carruth Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, WVU CARE Team, Office of Student Wellness, WVU Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry and other campus departments such as the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness, are working together to strengthen existing services and develop new and innovative approaches to promote student well-being.
“Not only have we scaled up our in-person appointments to better accommodate the influx of students seeking assistance and crises intervention, the Carruth Center has been intentional about hiring a staff of diverse counselors to support our ever-changing student needs,” T. Anne Hawkins, director of the Carruth Center, said.
Bobbi Jo Witham, an expert in crises management and intervention, is now the new clinical director at the Carruth Center. With long-time experience working in areas of trauma and suicide prevention, Witham has helped implement a coordinated crisis response to assist students and staff as a new academic year gets underway.
Let’s Chat kicked off during Welcome Week with 100% of the Carruth Center staff volunteering its time to help students. The new initiative, which will continue through the semester, provides easy access to informal consultations at different locations around campus providing an opportunity for counselors to listen to student concerns related to stress, homesickness and relationships and promote resources. Virtual Let’s Chat sessions are scheduled weekly on Mondays from 2-3 p.m. and in person each Tuesday from 3-5 p.m. in the Mountainlair’s Blackwater Room.
The Carruth Center website features a fresh redesign making it easier for students to find support and services offering a more user-friendly experience for students, increased its presence on social media, implemented programs through Refresh, and offers readily accessible virtual support. In addition, the Center is in the process of hiring a new mental health prevention specialist to work collaboratively with WELLWVU for additional outreach on the Morgantown campus.
The Carruth Center provides 24/7 emergency and crisis response to students. Hawkins describes it as a “front door” for students who need help. To meet the significant increase in demand, and to use its resources most effectively, the Center uses short-term individual and group counseling sessions to address personal concerns such as depression, relationship issues, difficulty adjusting to college life, home sickness and anxiety.
Healthy Minds University
Traditionally, students in need of long-term psychotherapy are referred to community resources. In response to a desire for more extended coordinated, on-campus support, Healthy Minds University will launch this fall.
It will be located in the Health and Education building on the Evansdale Campus across from the Student Rec Center and work in partnership with The Carruth Center and other WVU support services to outpatient psychiatric treatment and therapy services for students referred there.
Healthy Minds University, operated by WVU Medicine and the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, does not replace the services that the Carruth Center offers, but instead supplements and serves as an additional counseling resource for students.
A push for greater mental health awareness and support on campus has brought a group of 11 WVU students together for the inaugural Student Wellness and Mental Health Advisory Board. The board members will serve as advocates for student-centered wellbeing and maintain liaison with the Carruth Center, WELLWVU, Campus Recreation and others.
“The goal of Advisory Board is to provide staff with a broad student perspective on mental health services and programming available for students,” Sohan Daniel said.
Daniel, a junior sport and exercise psychology major minoring in human services and leadership studies from Chantilly, Virginia, was instrumental in establishing the group.
“The health and wellbeing of our students is at the forefront of everything we do,” Dean of Students Corey Farris said. “College students have always been prone to stress and concern about their success and the ongoing pandemic has increased the need for mental health services. WVU is committed to making these services more accessible and tailored to the needs of our diverse student body.”
Faculty and staff
WVU recognizes that faculty and staff are also experiencing stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health and wellness challenges at greater rates.
The West Virginia University Faculty and Staff Assistance Program is a free service offered to employees and their dependents. FSAP is a confidential resource that provides professional staff three sessions of short-term counseling to determine the best resources available to address presenting issues. For an appointment, WVU employees can call 304-293-5590.
WVU’s Office of Health Promotion and Wellness offers a wide range of resources and programming. Additionally, employees can learn more about health and wellness initiatives through Talent and Culture including information about the WVU Wellness Center.
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