An anonymous donor’s gift will ensure that, although they aren’t on campus, students enrolled at West Virginia University can reach out to the Carruth Center for Psychological and Psychiatric Services through a 24/7 crisis text line to receive immediate assistance from a live, trained counselor – especially if they feel overwhelmed by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The service is free, confidential and available anytime. Students initiated 41 conversations using the crisis text line in March alone; the bulk of those to date – 61 percent – occurred during nighttime and early morning hours, when the Carruth Center is typically closed.
“For many of our students, this is their preferred way to communicate,” said T. Anne Hawkins, clinical director of the Carruth Center. “Although our goal when students are distressed is ideally to have them talk in person with a counselor, sometimes reaching out by text is a great first step.”
Hawkins said the text line is particularly useful right now, as the Carruth Center provides services through telehealth and other online methods. Students say they like the convenience of these options, but counseling centers across the country have seen a decline in the number of students accessing services as campuses closed. The Carruth Center has responded by reaching out to students via phone and email and launching daily discussion groups.
Hawkins said a portion of the $10,000 gift will also provide continued telehealth training for Carruth Center staff, who are increasingly hearing that students are struggling with feelings of isolation due to social distancing, challenges associated with online learning and moving home.
“The crisis text line is a valuable resource that helps protect our students’ mental health and well-being as they adjust to the online classes and navigate other challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” B.J. Davisson, executive vice president and chief development officer for the WVU Foundation, said. “We are grateful to our generous donor for recognizing this need and quickly steering their dollars in this direction to provide immediate help.”
Nearly half of students using the text line shared concerns about stress and anxiety; other reasons for reaching out include depression, relationship issues, suicidal thoughts and feelings of isolation or loneliness. Students who use the text line are referred for counseling or psychiatric services as appropriate. Rescue efforts are initiated when it seems a student may harm themselves or someone else.
The WVU Foundation is raising money to boost need-based financial support for students via the Gray Student Emergency Fund. Supporters can use a dedicated webpage to contribute to the Emergency Fund, the Carruth Center and other important services provided by WVU during the coronavirus crisis. All donations are made through the Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.