All Washington State University students, no matter their location, will soon have access to a suite of mental health resources including after-hours crisis counseling, self-help resources, an online referral network, and peer support.
The resources will help address a growing demand for mental health support among students, a trend seen nationally and at WSU that began before the pandemic, said Ellen Taylor, interim vice president/vice chancellor for the Division of Student Affairs. The past couple of years have been especially challenging for students, she said, as many have dealt with disruptions and uncertainties with their education and in their personal lives.
“It is very important that we provide students with access to mental health services across our university system, and I’m excited that we are moving in that direction,” said Taylor. “These services are designed to support students in crisis but also move them upstream so they can build their own skills, resiliency, and self-sufficiency in navigating life’s inevitable bumps.”
The resources will become available to students in the fall as part of an expanded partnership WSU has with ProtoCall, a national company that provides a 24-hour behavioral health call center and an array of digital products.
Timely assessment and intervention
Students can access the resources with just a click, tap, or call, every hour of every day. The digital tools are self-guided, self-paced, and there whenever students seek them, Taylor said.
At the core of the services is ProtoCall’s crisis call center, which is already available to students on the Pullman, Spokane, and Tri-Cities campuses for after-hours crisis calls. The new partnership expands access to students on the Vancouver, Everett, and Global campuses.
Patience McGinnis, director of student wellness at WSU Vancouver, said the call center operates like an extension of a WSU counseling center. The mental health professionals fielding calls document their conversations with students and share the information with a designated therapist on the campus where the student is enrolled.
“That allows us to follow-up with the student to see if more wrap-around services are needed,” McGinnis said. “That same therapist can also connect students to other ProtoCall resources if they think it would be helpful.”
Mood tracking and peer support
The other services students will have access to are part of the ProtoCall+ package and include the self-help digital 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 they are connected to their environment.
“When students are feeling stressed, depressed, or anxious, their natural inclination is to withdraw,” Taylor said. “WellTrack can help students overcome that natural tendency to isolate by building alternate coping strategies based on their goals.”
Jennifer Ellsworth, director of the Counseling and Psychological Services on the Pullman campus, is excited for Togetherall, a safe place where students can talk, share, and support others virtually who are experiencing similar thoughts and feelings, all while remaining anonymous.
“I believe there is healing in community and being able to talk with others,” she said. “To have peer support that can be readily accessed is a powerful additional resource for WSU students.”
The Shrink Space helps connect students to off-campus mental health providers.
Moving towards prevention and education
Taylor said WSU staff are working to ensure students at each campus, including the Global campus, have quick and easy access to ProtoCall+ services. Access information will be shared with students as soon as the resources are available.
“We have talked for years about the need to expand our mental health care systemwide as the demand continues to grow,” she said. “I’m so excited that we are beginning to look beyond providing treatment, which is still important, to focus on prevention, education, and building our students’ resiliency skills.”
“Students can access new mental health resources with just a click, tap, or call, every hour of every day.”