CAPS unveils new online platform for mental health resources amid pandemic

Wednesday, June 10, 2020 - 7:24pm

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Design by Hibah Chughtai

Last week, CAPS announced their new platform SilverCloud, an online tool that provides access to mental health resources to students and faculty. The program features a series of modules individuals can work through at their own pace. According to the CAPS website, while the program is not intended to replace in-person mental health help. SilverCloud was designed to help students and faculty with daily stress and anxiety; improve resilience; learn new skills to better understand thoughts, feelings and behaviors; and reduce the symptoms that accompany depression and anxiety. 

CAPS Director Todd Sevig spoke to The Daily about the new platform. Its aim is to help students amid the restrictions that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on their typical services, he explained. 

“To offer something that is more than just an article on a website, it is an actual behavioral-focused program that is available to students no matter where they are in the world,” Sevig said. “We’ve been on this journey to offer multiple support systems for multiple kinds of students at multiple times of the year, so it just adds to all the other things we offer. It is really not a one-size-fits-all with mental health support.”

Sevig also spoke about how the pandemic is bringing new ideas into CAPS and the potential for SilverCloud to be used long past the current restrictions placed on in-person meetings. 

“There are some possibilities here that this experience of the last few months and, continuing for the next few months, gives us some insight to things that are really cool and helpful,” Sevig said.  “Time will tell whether SilverCloud will fall into that category, but we at CAPS are very open to identifying new ways that really resonate with students and if they do, we will continue them, even after the pandemic.”

Public Health senior Liadan Solomon, Wolverine Support Network executive director, spoke to The Daily about WSN’s role on campus, relationship with CAPS and how WSN pairs peer group facilitators with students, even during the pandemic. 

“We are a sponsored student organization under CAPS. However, the majority of our programming is produced autonomously by student leadership,” Solomon said. “Our model is a peer support model … which means that our groups do not include a licensed mental health professional but rather a trained peer group facilitator to guide conversations and to perform first line crisis intervention. In this way, our relationship with CAPS mostly helps to ensure that we are following the protocols we need in terms of training in order to allow our program to continue, but day-to-day operations are completely handled by student leadership.”

Solomon also emphasized the importance of maintaining virtual options, like SilverCloud, even if the University has an in-residence fall semester. 

“I think that it definitely makes sense to maintain some form of virtual mental health services regardless of the CAPS (services), as virtual formats have decreased barriers for some individuals,” Solomon said. “I cannot make a promise on what WSN is planning for the fall yet, as we are currently entertaining a variety of contingencies and will likely mimic whatever the University's plan for classes becomes. We do plan to take into account the feedback we received on our post-semester survey in regards to virtual groups to make decisions about the format of our groups. What I can verify is that we will likely run at least one of our graduate groups virtually, as grad students had largely positive feelings about the virtual meetings.” 

LSA junior Sam Beenstock spoke to The Daily about his experiences using SilverCloud as a member of the CAPS Student Advisory Board and how he thinks it will help students. 

“(As) the CAPS Student Advisory Board, we serve as the student feedback group for all of the therapists at CAPS,” Beenstock said. “If they are putting out any sort of new program or new documents, they’'ll run these by us first and get our feedback on that before they go out to the public with it.”

Beenstock commented on how user-friendly and versatile the program has been. 

“They offer a few different programs based on whatever you want to focus on,” Beenstock said. “Each module starts with a video from real, licensed therapists … and then the actual section includes quizzes that allow you to see where you fall in a category (for example), it might run you through scenarios to break down your coping style with stress. They have really simply-worded explanations that help break down confusing concepts, (and) it’s really user-friendly and simple to use.” 

Beenstock said this program is a way for students to both check in on their mental health and to supplement other therapies and counselling. 

“I think you can never do enough to make sure you’re checking on your mental health and doing as much as you can in that area,” Beenstock said. “If everybody could use this in supplement with therapy, I think it (would) help to explain concepts that you might talk about … I can only see positives to using it in addition to other services.”

Summer News Editor Sarah Payne can be reached at paynesm@umich.edu.