As Gov. Jay Inslee’s shelter‑in‑place order stretches into another week, many are struggling to cope with the anxiety and stress of social isolation.

Mental health services are still available for all members of the Washington State University community. Students can make tele‑mental health appointments through the counseling services available at their branch of the WSU campus. Faculty and staff can use the WSU Employee Assistance Program which provides confidential counseling and referral services.

“Losing everyday social connections is hard for everyone, particularly for those of us with existing mental health conditions,” said Jennifer Ellsworth, director of WSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services. “Isolation is challenging for almost everyone.”

Closeup of Jennifer Ellsworth.
Jennifer Ellsworth

Students struggling with anxiety, depression or other mental health issues can schedule remote, counseling appointments via Zoom with a therapist in Pullman, Spokane, Vancouver and the Tri‑Cities. The ability to move services online followed WSU’s addition of a specialty Zoom videoconferencing option that complies with the federal Health Information Protection and Privacy Act. Support groups and resources for people struggling with a substance use disorder have also moved online.

“Before setting up an appointment with a counselor, my advice is to start with the basics and take small steps,” Ellsworth said. “Some of the most important things you can do right now are the simplest.”

Maintain a routine

Amid daily government briefings, dire headlines and general unease about when life will be normal again, Ellsworth said developing a routine can go a long way towards creating some predictability in the world.

This can be as simple as setting a schedule for rising, getting dressed, preparing meals and getting ready for bedtime as though it is just another regular day. Setting clear, simple goals like standing up to stretch every hour and limiting the time spent on screens before bed can also help.

“You don’t need to reinvent your life,” Ellsworth said. “We have foundational needs for movement/exercise, eating and drinking well, and sleep, so those are great places to start.”

WSU Counseling and Psychological Services for students

Pullman:

  • 509‑335‑4511
  • After‑hours crisis hotline:
    509‑335‑2159

Spokane:

  • 509‑358‑7740
  • After‑hours crisis hotline:
    509‑368‑6500

Tri‑Cities:

  • 509‑372‑7153
  • After‑hours crisis hotline:
    800‑273‑8255

Vancouver:

  • 360‑546‑9238
  • After‑hours crisis hotline:
    800‑626‑8137

Everett:

  • 425‑405‑1750
  • After‑hours crisis hotline:
    800‑273‑8255

Global Campus:

  • After‑hours crisis hotline:
    800‑273‑8255

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

  • 1‑800‑273‑8255

Crisis Text Line:

  • Text HOME to 741741

Make time for social connections

Humans are hardwired for connection and need relationships. Ellsworth said now is a great time to call or virtually connect with family and friends as well as the people who were part of daily life before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are many ways to do this, including video calls using Zoom or FaceTime, a phone call, a text message, social media or even an old‑fashioned letter.

WSU offers Zoom to all faculty, staff and students free of charge. More information on installing Zoom and setting up virtual meetings is available online.

Be selective with media

While it is understandable to want to stay current with what is happening in the world, too much media of any kind can undermine mental health, Ellsworth said.

She recommends limiting the amount of time spent watching the news and using social media as well as sticking to trustworthy, factual information.

“Seek out social media that helps you connect with others, but consider unfollowing social media that unnecessarily increases your worry,” she said.

Practice self‑kindness

Perhaps most importantly, Ellsworth recommends that everyone should relax and give themselves a little grace.

“We’re all struggling to adapt to new routines and manage new worries and stresses. We’re all finding it harder to pay attention and feeling more emotional than usual,” she said. “Remember that we’re all going through this together. Now is a great time to focus on what really matters and let go of things that aren’t that important. Practice treating yourself with care and kindness.”