Last week, Miami University launched Campus Care, a new mental health outreach program pioneered by Associated Student Government (ASG).
Campus Care is a drop-in counseling service for students who wish to speak with a trained mental health professional in a less formal setting than the traditional therapy offered through the Student Counseling Services (SCS).
"I think one of the best things that Campus Care does is start to help destigmatize seeking counseling for people who haven't used it before," said Shelby Frye, an ASG off-campus senator who helped start the program. "Everyone should check in on their mental health the same way they do with their physical health."
The service is offered at King Library, Armstrong Student Center and Farmer School of Business (FSB). It operates on a first-come, first-served basis, with 15-minute sessions that are open to any student on campus.
"It provides flexibility (in time and location) that the [SCS] might lack, simply because the hours are more regular and the building is not centrally located," Frye said. "Students can now talk about how they are feeling with a more objective source about things that might be causing them immediate anxiety, like a break-up or a stressful exam."
At Campus Care, no topics are off-limits. According to the website, common concerns for students using the service are "stress, relationships, academic performance, financial struggles, sadness, worry and family problems."
Campus Care sessions are free and have no associated fees, unlike SCS which is $25 a visit after the first three visits. The sessions are short and informal; if the private office door is closed, a visitor simply waits until it opens and the clinician comes out to greet them.
Director of SCS John Ward said the school hopes the program will help increase student engagement with mental health services at Miami and is meant to reach students who may not seek out mental health services through "traditional means."
One driving factor behind the launch of the Campus Care program is the infamously long wait times at the counseling center. Frye said the wait times can be long and it can take several weeks to get an appointment.
Sophomore Alli Lowe recalls a two-week period between when she called the center for an appointment and when she actually met with a counselor for the first time.
"I wasn't seriously concerned, but what if it had been an emergency and I needed someone right away?" she asked.
The long wait times can be a deterrent to students, but Frye hopes that Campus Care can open doors for students who may be considering more intensive therapy.
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"It is a program meant to give students who might be considering going to longer-term counseling a taste of what counseling is like or for students experiencing more situational anxiety as opposed to a more sustained feeling of anxiety, depression or other mental health concern," Frye said.
Students at Miami are optimistic about the new satellite counseling.
"I think this will be a good idea, especially for people who have issues that aren't giant but also need attention sooner than a few weeks out," Lowe said. "Even if they just need five minutes of advice, I think this will be perfect."
The 15-minute sessions may be convenient for students, but their effectiveness has come into question from students skeptical of the process.
Ward believes that they can be effective, primarily for smaller issues or as an add-on to traditional counseling.
"I don't see Campus Care as an opposition to current, traditional services, but rather a way to supplement them," Ward said.
For now, the program is starting small. Sessions will be available from 5:15-6:15 p.m. on Tuesdays at King Library in room 108, from 10:30-11:30 a.m. on Wednesdays at the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion in Armstrong and from 1:30-2:30 p.m. on Thursdays at FSB in room 1011.
If the program is actively utilized by students, Ward said Miami hopes to expand the program in the coming months, potentially increasing both the hours and locations.
Campus Care is not psychotherapy, and Ward encourages students to utilize counseling center resources in addition to Campus Care sessions, though the care providers are trained mental health professionals who can offer advice as needed.