As of Monday night, conversations about mental health are now constantly accessible beyond the traditional hours offered by Counseling and Psychological Services.
Partnering with a company called ProtoCall, CAPS will now give students the option to call a mental health hotline after its office in the Michigan Union closes at 7 p.m. The hotline will be open whenever CAPS is not — including weekends and school holidays. The phone number will be the same number as the CAPS main line and will connect the caller to a ProtoCall licensed psychologist.
According to CAPS director Todd Sevig the idea for the program has been in the works for a few years. He said though the University hospital provides a psychiatric emergency room at all hours, this service could help struggling students who don’t feel they need to rush to the hospital.
“Maybe it’s not quite an emergency but it would be really helpful to talk with a counselor at that moment,” he said. “That’s the inspiration. As I’ve asked students these last two or three years, across the board, everybody has said that would be really helpful.”
Sevig said the purpose of the hotline is to provide a resource for students every moment CAPS is not open. The phone line will not be available when CAPS is open, he said, because students can access the in-person services at those times.
LSA senior Allie Williams, a member of CAPS Student Advisory Board, said ProtoCall has a presence on more than 100 college campuses and has helped more than 2 million students with mental health needs.
She said implementing a ProtoCall hotline on campus will help bridge a gap between the current services offered and extra help students might need.
“CAPS wanted to offer this service because they realized that there was a need among the student body in terms of offering alternative resources for mental health crises that happen after hours, on the weekends or on holidays,” she said.
Sevig noted that students will never be put on hold through this service, and will gain access to counselors who know the campus and its resources well.
If desired, students will also have the option to connect with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center’s 24-hour hotline, or with the University Hospital.
“They are specifically trained in college student mental health, and so there are master’s level and doctoral level counselors that know a lot about college students and college student issues,” he said. “The second reason why this is going to be a great benefit for our campus is that they, as part of the service they provide, take the time to learn not just about local resources, but they take time to learn the protocols that exist within the University. So when a student calls they will talk to counselor right away and that counselor will know all about the Michigan resources and to connect them with other resources if that’s needed.”
Sevig also said through talking to students, he has learned that some people feel more comfortable talking about private mental health issues on the phone. He hopes this service will add value to the face-to-face services CAPS already provides.
Williams said she believes the hotline can be used not only for emergency situations, but also for talking through the stressors many students face as a result of classes or pressure at the University.
“An example would be when a student is experiencing intense anxiety during finals or midterms and they’re in the library feeling really upset or anxious about the exams they have to take,” she said. “They could call this line to talk through the problems they’re having and really receive the help that they need.”
Though Sevig said hopes are high for the potential of this program, he wants to check in and evaluate the efficacy of the hotline after its launch.
“At this point, what I’m planning on is an evaluation simply in the number of calls and the types of calls,” he said. “But at some point later in the year I would like to talk with students and student groups. It could be a survey. Then we’ll make changes based on that.”
Ultimately, Williams emphasized that the phone line is a strong complement to the services CAPS already offers.
“CAPS really wants students to live wellness-oriented lives and wants to offer this service in hopes of serving students that need help after regular business hours,” she said. “I’d like to think that CAPS will continue to strive to meet our student mental health needs in any way possible.”