Virginia Commonwealth University is increasing mental health and wellness resources for students, faculty and staff as part of its goal to promote a safe and healthy campus environment.
The mental and emotional health of students and employees is critical because it affects all aspects of life — including relationships, physical well-being, and productivity and success in school and work, said Charles Klink, Ph.D, vice president for student affairs at VCU.
“Now more than ever, it’s especially important that we all actively monitor our thoughts and feelings and take time to care for ourselves and each other,” he said.
Student and employee health and wellness resources at VCU can be found at RamStrong, a one-stop site that addresses the eight dimensions of wellness: 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 foster a culture of caring 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 offering 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 offered in addition to University Counseling Services — will enable students to connect with a therapist and receive treatment with scheduling flexibility.
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. Counselors can provide 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 doctor they want to work with and start scheduling sessions.
- TalkNow offers free 24/7 on-demand access to a mental health professional. It offers support for stress and anxiety, suicidal thoughts, feelings of hopelessness, worry, relationship concerns, social isolation, hopelessness and more.
- Health training. VCU students can access no-cost virtual appointments with health coaches to help initiate or maintain optimal sleep, nutrition, exercise, weight and stress management for holistic wellness.
“We know that throughout the pandemic, there have been many students who have struggled with mental health concerns,” said Jihad Aziz, Ph.D., director of University Counseling Services. “We are 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 advice and tools for everything from mental and physical health to friendships and finding balance.
“You@VCU is really about helping students set their goals,” Aziz said. “For many students, they are very self-motivated when it comes to their own well-being, and this helps them do those things.”
Additionally, students are invited to Alive! The VCU Mental Health Fair, which will be held from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm on September 26 in the University Student Commons.
At this event, students will be asked who they can contact—perhaps a professor or a friend—if they feel anxious. After the event, VCU will reach out to those trusted contacts and let them know there are students who feel comfortable talking with them, thanking them for being a part of VCU’s caring culture, and providing information about resources they can to give to the students.
Another new student support service this fall is Kognito, an online chat simulation that helps faculty and staff recognize signs that students may be anxious and provides guidelines for talking to and connecting with students with appropriate campus support.
New resources for employees
A variety of services are also being extended to support the mental health and well-being of faculty and staff.
- Improved 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 benefit-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.
- Improved employee health services. VCU and VCU Health employees can currently access a variety 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 want to speak with a clinician about general or health-related concerns. work for health or safety, too. as it 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 offered through EAPs and TimelyCare, employees can use RamStrong to access mental and emotional health wellness 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 wellness program administrator at Human Resources VCU. “Employees can also use RamStrong to access programs offered by VCU Recreation and Well-being, which offers physical and mental/emotional wellness programs.”
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