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New ResilientU program strengthens student mental health support

December 7, 2022
By: Deborah Alvarez O'Neil

Worcester State University is expanding mental health services for students with the launch of ResilientU@WooState, a new pilot program that offers a 24/7 mental health support line, telehealth counseling, psychiatry, and a host of online wellness resources.

Offered by Worcester State’s Counseling Center, ResilientU is available to degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate students and students enrolled in the Intensive English Language Institute. The pilot program is funded by a new $142,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Higher Education through August 2023, and over the coming months, the university will evaluate whether it meets student needs, said Associate Dean for Health and Wellness Laura Murphy, who heads the Counseling Center.

“Nationwide there is a mental health crisis, and from a college student perspective, the mental health crisis started long before COVID. The pandemic just threw it above and beyond,” Murphy said. ”Right now, we know we aren’t reaching all the students who need mental health services – like students who are pursuing their degrees online or take evening classes. With this expanded access, we are trying to meet students where they are. We want to make sure students have different options and choices for support around mental health.“

To launch ResilientU, Worcester State University partnered with Lexington, MA based Christie Campus Health, which works with universities around the country to deliver high-quality mental health services. ResilientU will bring to Worcester State a number of services:

  • Additional  24/7 mental health support line available 365 days a year 
  • Free face-to-face and telehealth counseling sessions with a licensed clinician available even when students are off campus, out of state or traveling internationally. Students are also able to access an on-call counselor after hours by phone, but state licensing prohibits counselors from providing care to students if they are calling from out of state, for instance if they are visiting family outside of Massachusetts. The new program removes barriers around geography and location.
  • Ability to specify counseling services based on race, ethnicity or language. 
  • Access to psychiatric evaluations and ongoing medical management. 
  • Virtual prescribing for mental health medications with a physician or nurse practitioner
  • Free access to the mindfulness and meditation app Headspace and self-guided mental health tools on the Silvercloud platform
  • Online peer counseling through Togetherall, an anonymous peer-to-peer platform that is monitored by a trained professional 24/7/365

With six clinicians on staff, Worcester State’s Counseling Center staff sees about 600 students per year. “We know students want things now,” Murphy said. “With this new program, if a student wants counseling at 9 o’clock on a Saturday night, we can do that.”

College students, she said, are still experiencing the mental health struggles of COVID-19, including anxiety, panic and isolation. With access to a wide variety of tools and a peer-to-peer platform, Murphy hopes the message of ResilientU is one of self-empowerment.

“Being a resilient university means that our students and our university is focused on bouncing back,” Murphy said. “To be resilient is about how you return from a crisis, how you come back from a difficult time. Our students are very resilient but they need to be taught skills so they can see and believe that they can rise above difficulties. We want students to utilize these resources  as viable tools for success.”

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