Written by Dr. Randy Jones, Associate Dean of Students and Executive Director of Health Services
At peak levels last year, the demand for mental health services exceeded the existing capacity of the Health Center. Our system was operating at maximum efficiency caring for as many students as possible, but was unable to readily accommodate a higher influx of patients. This resulted in longer wait times for appointments, a doubling of students calling our after hours on-call counseling service, and a greater number of students voicing frustration over limited access to these much sought after resources.
In efforts to meet the growing demand for mental health services, the Health Center has partnered with Academic Live Care (ALC) to expand counseling services to students. Our students now have access to ALC’s large network of tele-mental health providers as another avenue for obtaining counseling and ongoing therapy. This partnership provides students with greater flexibility in appointment times and they can select providers based on preferences such as gender, cultural and ethnic background, language spoken, and specialties. It also offers a venue of support to our students who for various reasons cannot or prefer not to present in-person to the Health Center. All counseling sessions are made available at no expense to students.
The Health Center also added a new resource called Togetherall designed to provide our students with 24/7 access to a large peer-to-peer mental health support community. This new web-based platform and media-style mental health app gives students a safe place to connect with other students experiencing similar feelings. Students log in and make a post (anonymously)…then someone responds to their post, often to validate how they are feeling or to give advice. The online community supports over 250 colleges and universities with over two million registered users and is monitored at all times by trained clinicians. This tool is an excellent low-acuity mental health intervention and offers a supplemental venue of support for the students we may be missing through our existing conventional approaches to care.
Onsite SANE Service
In response to requests from our students, provisions were put in place in late this spring 2022 to offer SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) exams 24/7 at the Health Center for victims of sexual assault. Through a partnership negotiated with The Turning Point Rape Crisis Center, a SANE nurse and advocate will be dispatched on demand to the Health Center for SMU students who have experienced sexual assault and request emergency examination. Previously, access to such services was only available to students off-campus.
To learn more about the mental health resources mentioned in this article, visit smu.edu/mentalhealthapps.