Virginia Commonwealth University is enhancing mental health and well-being resources for students, faculty and staff as part of its goal to promote a safe and healthy campus environment.
Students’ and employees’ mental and emotional health are crucial because they impact all aspects of life — including relationships, physical well-being, and productivity and success at school and work, said Charles Klink, Ph.D, vice president for student affairs at VCU.
“Now more than ever, it is especially important that we all actively monitor our thoughts and feelings and make time to care for ourselves and each other,” he said.
Student and employee health and well-being resources at VCU can be found at RamStrong, a one-stop location that addresses the eight dimensions of well-being: physical, emotional, social, financial, intellectual, occupational, environmental and spiritual.
RamStrong provides information on VCU’s newest mental and emotional health resources, as well as frequently requested resources that are already available, including University Student Health Services, Employee Health, Health Advisory information (such as for COVID-19), RecWell programming and work/life programming through VCU Human Resources.
“At VCU, we want to enhance a culture of care by providing and promoting the resources we have to help our students and employees feel their best,” said Meredith Weiss, Ph.D., vice president for administration.
New resources for students
For students, VCU is providing free access to TimelyCare, a 24/7 virtual care service that addresses common concerns that can be diagnosed and treated remotely. The service — which is provided in addition to University Counseling Services — will enable students to connect with a therapist and receive treatment with flexibility in scheduling.
TimelyCare includes three services for VCU students:
- Scheduled counseling. VCU students have access to 12 free 45-minute counseling sessions with a licensed counselor for the 2022-23 academic year. The counselors can offer support for stress and anxiety, adjustment issues, relationship issues, depression, grief and loss, trauma and PTSD, addiction, panic disorders and more. Students are encouraged to download the TimelyCare app, find a clinician they would like to work with, and begin scheduling sessions.
- TalkNow provides free 24/7 on-demand access to a mental health professional. It offers support for stress and anxiety, suicidal thoughts, feeling down, worry, relationship concerns, social isolation, hopelessness and more.
- Health coaching. VCU students can access no-cost, virtual appointments with health coaches to help start or maintain optimal sleep, nutrition, exercise, weight and stress management for holistic well-being.
“We know that throughout the pandemic, there have been lots of students who have struggled with mental health concerns,” said Jihad Aziz, Ph.D., director of University Counseling Services. “We’re really encouraging students to download the TimelyCare app to access crisis, therapeutic and health coaching services.”
Another new service for VCU students is You@VCU, a platform that helps find tips and tools for everything from mental and physical health to friendships and finding balance.
“You@VCU is really about helping students to set their own goals,” Aziz said. “For lots of students, they’re very self-motivated when it comes to their wellness, and this helps support them in doing those things.”
Additionally, students are invited to the Alive! Mental Health Fair at VCU, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 26 at University Student Commons.
At the event, students will be asked who they might contact — perhaps a professor or a friend — if they were feeling in distress. Following the event, VCU will reach out to those trusted contacts and let them know that there are students who feel comfortable talking to them, thanking them for being part of VCU’s culture of care, and providing information about resources they can give to students.
Another new service for supporting students this fall is Kognito, an online conversation simulation that helps faculty and staff recognize signs that students may be in distress and provides guidance for talking with students and connecting them with appropriate campus support.
New resources for employees
A variety of services are also being rolled out in support of faculty and staff mental health and wellness.
- Enhanced mental/emotional health resources. TimelyCare will be available to employees later this fall and will provide access to mental and emotional health resources from anywhere at any time. Currently, only benefits-eligible employees have access to mental and emotional health resources through employee assistance programs (EAPs) as part of health coverage. TimelyCare will be available to all employees. They will be able to log in using their VCU eID and password.
- Enhanced Employee Health Services. VCU and VCU Health employees may currently access a range of health and safety services through Employee Health Services at a clinic in room 120 of West Hospital, 1200 E. Broad St., on the MCV Campus. VCU will improve access to Employee Health Services on the Monroe Park Campus through online and in-person resources, starting with a new nurse call line for employees who wish to speak to a clinician regarding general or work-related health or safety concerns, as well as plans to pilot a Monroe Park Campus clinic in the spring.
The new RamStrong platform will also be an important resource for VCU employees this academic year.
In addition to counseling provided through EAPs and TimelyCare, employees can use RamStrong to access mental and emotional health well-being resources through VCU Human Resources Work-Life programs.
“Resources include in-person and virtual sessions such as mindfulness meditation, yoga and other behavioral health tools, as well as employee discounts for wellness services,” said Cindi Phares, employee recognition and well-being program administrator in VCU Human Resources. “Employees can also use RamStrong to access programming provided by VCU Recreation and Well-being, which offers both physical and mental/emotional well-being programs.”
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