In an effort to reach more students and address the stigma of seeking psychological help, the office of Counseling and Psychological Services has expanded its “Do Something” education campaign, which was unveiled last year.
Yesterday, CAPS staff held an event at the Michigan Union to officially introduce MiTalk, a website for University students that provides information on mental health issues. The site has been online since early this year, but the office now plans to heavily market it to students.
Vicki Hayes, an associate director of CAPS, said the site acts as an after-hours resource for students who have a question or are exploring mental health options at their leisure.
“The goal is to get information to students 24/7, not to wait until they walk in to see us, and not to assume that they were going to be able to cross that threshold, but to try and reach out to get information to students where they live, where they study and whenever they’re online,” she said.
Todd Sevig, director of CAPS, said the site is an effort to provide a constant resource for students who want help but aren’t sure what to do or don’t feel comfortable going to the CAPS office in person.
“The notion is that we do something,” he said. “It’s very behavioral. You might not know exactly what to do, but do something to help a friend. Do something to help yourself.”
The site offers more immediate information to students than a non-emergency appointment with CAPS. According to the CAPS website, the wait time for an open appointment can be up to 10 to 15 days, though the office will see students in need of emergency counseling on the same day.
Since the site’s initial launch, CAPS staff has surveyed students about the site’s content and configuration, and expanded it to include more multimedia features and topic pages, officials said.
On the site, students can screen themselves for mental health conditions, learn how to help a suicidal friend, watch videos for students talking about the stigma of seeking help or download yoga exercise videos to their iPods.
The most widespread issues students reported in the survey were stress and depression. The site also has topic pages with information about sexual orientation, anxiety, grief and sleep disorders.
Sevig said CAPS decided to expand the Do Something campaign because it garnered a positive response last year.
“This is a very active generation of college students who are really into helping each other,” he said.
According to online statistics provided by CAPS, the MiTalk site was viewed 3,737 times in September by a total of 907 people. The most frequently visited pages were “tour the site”, “identify a problem” and “multimedia.”
Sevig said he thought students were more likely to use the CAPS website instead of other general mental health websites because it was specifically tailored to University students.
“The beauty of this is that we’ve worked with UM students to take the mental health profession and the field and the literature and to really focus exclusively on, ‘how do college students experience it on this campus?‘ ” he said.
Engineering sophomore Colleen Budd said she was drawn to the CAPS table in the Union yesterday for the free T-shirts, but after seeing some of the statistics on mental health issues among University students, she decided to stay and learn more about MiTalk.
She said she thinks the website does a good job of giving students options of how they want to approach their individual problems.
“This is something students can do if they’re embarrassed to say, ‘Hey, I think I’m sad,’ ” she said. “They can watch videos to help them relax if they have anxiety problems or individually address any other problems they have.”