Counseling Center offering telehealth, Zoom appointments

Rhonda Wheeler, Editor-in-Chief

Thomas Longwell, director of the Counseling Center, said he hasn’t met anyone who isn’t struggling right now.

“COVID fatigue is real,” Longwell said. “It’s hard and it’s as hard on us as it is everyone. So, one suggestion I always have for people if to first off, accept that this is normal. We’re all struggling, and it doesn’t say anything negative about you.”

Longwell said people are struggling because everyone wants to get back to normal. Students may miss seeing their friends and family.

He said it’s important to think back on basic needs.

“How I take care of myself, whether that’s going for walks, meditation, taking a bubble bath, whatever it is that kind of helps to recharge you becomes extremely important during these times,” he said.

Longwell also said you should have a balance in your life between academic life and nonacademic.

“When we are under times of challenge and under times of struggle, the first things we tend to get rid of are we stop sleeping right, we stop eating right, stop exercising,” he said. “We shouldn’t, but we do.”

He said he encourages students to balance out their short-term goals with their long-term goals. Students are in school for their long-term goals, to get a degree. It’s important not to sacrifice your short-term goals, such as relaxation and interpersonal connection with people.

The Counseling Center looks different this semester.

One of the main differences is the vast majority of services are done via Zoom and telehealth this semester.

“We really made that conscious decision based on wanting to protect everybody’s health and well-being,” he said. “Also, we didn’t want to have to wear masks. The thing is, with mental health and counseling, so much of communication is not just verbal. It’s what you say, how you say it, (and) your body language.”

Longwell said counseling with masks, counselors can lose so much of the picture, so they thought it would be best on the telehealth aspect of it.

Counselors received training for telehealth and professional development. 

The Counseling Center also had to revise all of their paperwork to get their forms available electronically and then they had to develop new consent forms.

“Students have to take into account the fact that there’s different consents that are required, because there’s privacy concerns,” Longwell said. “So we had to also then look at our policies and procedures and how we’re going to help ensure things are private.”

All of the Zoom meetings with the counselors do meet standards for HIPAA compliance. 

In a survey conducted by the CDC, 731 people 18-24 year olds participated. 49.1% reported having an anxiety disorder. 52.3% had reported a depressive disorder. 

46% of participants said they developed these because of COVID-19. 25.5% seriously considered suicide between May 24-30. 

24.7% reported starting or increasing substance use to cope with pandemic-related stress or emotions.

Lisa Crago, a junior account major, said COVID-19 did have an impact on her mental health.

“The change was sudden and I was a bit nervous about the transition to online learning because it’s not the way I prefer to take classes,” she said. “I do feel a bit anxious even now because I’m (conscious) of the fact that we could have to leave again in a snap.”

In order to take care of herself, Crago kept herself on a schedule when she went home, so she could hold herself accountable on keeping a routine.

“I don’t think anyone knows the best way to get through this, but as long as we take safe precautions and have patience with the process and with each other, we’ll be doing the best we can.”