All Washington State University students, wherever they are, will soon have access to a suite of mental health resources, including after-hours crisis counseling, self-help, an online referral network and peer support.
The resources will help meet a growing demand for mental health support among students, a trend seen nationally and at WSU that began before the pandemic, said Ellen Taylor, Vice President/Vice Chancellor by Acting Student Affairs Division. The past two years have been particularly difficult for students, she said, as many have faced disruption and uncertainty in their education and in their personal lives.
“It’s very important that we provide students with access to mental health services across our university system, and I’m thrilled that we’re moving in that direction,” Taylor said. “These services are designed to support students in crisis, but also to move them upstream so they can develop their own skills, resilience and self-reliance to deal with life’s inevitable hardships.”
The resources will be made available to students in the fall as part of an expanded partnership between WSU and ProtoCall, a national company that provides a 24-hour behavioral health call center and line of digital products.
Timely assessment and intervention
Students can access resources with a single click, tap or call, any hour of the day. The digital tools are self-guided, self-paced and available whenever students seek them out, Taylor said.
At the heart of the services is ProtoCall’s Crisis Call Center, which is already available to students at the Pullman, Spokane and Tri-Cities campuses for after-hours crisis calls. The new partnership expands access for students at campuses in Vancouver, Everett and Global.
Patience McGinnis, director of student welfare at WSU Vancouver, said the call center operates as an extension of a WSU counseling center. Mental health professionals who respond to calls document their conversations with students and share the information with a designated therapist on the campus where the student is enrolled.
“It allows us to follow up with the student to see if additional services are needed,” McGinnis said. “This same therapist can also connect students to other ProtoCall resources if they think it would be helpful.”
Mood tracking and peer support
Other services students will have access to are part of the ProtoCall+ package and include the digital self-help app WellTrack, a referral network called The Shrink Space, and an online peer community called Togetherall.
WellTrack monitors students’ anxiety, stress, depression and mood over time and shows how connected they are to their environment.
“When students feel stressed, depressed, or anxious, their natural inclination is to withdraw,” Taylor said. “WellTrack can help students overcome this natural tendency to isolate themselves by creating alternative coping strategies based on their goals.”
Jennifer Ellsworth, director of counseling and psychology services at the Pullman campus, is thrilled with Togetherall, a safe place where students can virtually talk, share and support others who are experiencing similar thoughts and feelings, while remaining anonymous.
“I believe there is healing in the community and the ability to talk with others,” she said. “Having readily accessible peer support is a powerful additional resource for WSU students.”
The Shrink Space helps students connect with off-campus mental health providers.
Towards prevention and education
Taylor said WSU staff are working to ensure students on every campus, including the Global Campus, have quick and easy access to ProtoCall+ services. Access information will be shared with students as resources become available.
“We’ve been talking for years about the need to expand our mental health care system on a demand scale as demand continues to grow,” she said. “I’m so excited that we’re starting to look beyond providing treatment, which is always important, to focusing on prevention, education and building resilience in our students.”
“Students can access new mental health resources with just a click, tap or call, every hour of every day.”