Just before the start of the 2019–20 academic year, the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services at Ithaca College (CAPS) began offering a new after-hours on-call counseling service. For the first time in recent history, the center is also fully staffed. The service will be available during the hours the center is closed, including nights, weekends and holidays. CAPS is partnering with a telephonic health company called Protocall to provide this additional layer of mental health support.
The college’s decisions to partner with Protocall and provide 24/7 access to mental health resources are vital moves. As rates of loneliness rise nationwide, the introduction of around-the-clock mental health and crisis support on campus is a necessary measure to support and advocate for struggling students. Mental health crises aren’t confined to a 9-5 workday; support for these crises shouldn’t be, either.
Right now, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students. More than 60% of college students said they experienced “overwhelming anxiety” in the past year, according to a 2018 report from the American College Health Association.
The increased sense of stress and anxiety among today’s college students is only worsened by the prevalence of social media and increased academic expectations. Between the fall of 2009 and spring 2015, the number of students who visited campus counseling centers increased by 30%, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health.
Despite the increasing demand for mental health counseling, colleges often fail to meet students’ mental health needs. A 2017 report from the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors reveals that students typically have to wait seven business days for an appointment with an on-campus psychological counselor, and Ithaca College is no exception.
However, the college’s new relationship with an after-hours counseling phone line shows CAPS’ desire to support those who are struggling, whether they live on or off campus. Not only will the call center be open during night and weekend hours, but it will provide mental health support in an accessible, low-commitment way. To receive support, students can call the CAPS primary phone number — 607-274-3136 — and they will be transferred to a trained and licensed professional. The CAPS center will receive daily reports of calls taken by Protocall, and it will have the opportunity to reach out to the callers to provide additional support the following day.
As the semester continues and coursework increases, the new after-hours crisis line will provide a resource for students to deal with stress in an accessible, healthy way. The college’s partnership with the call center shows a commitment to students’ well-being and will be an extremely positive change for the college community.