By Sandy Broughton
Even before it officially launched on Aug. 12, students were registering for TimelyCare, a virtual health service that is the latest addition to Virginia Tech’s mental health and wellness resources.
TimelyCare is offered to students at no cost. The health service is an addition — not a replacement — to the many mental health support structures in place at Virginia Tech.
“We know that mental health is a critical component of overall well-being,” said Frances Keene, interim vice president for Student Affairs. “TimelyCare services complement our existing mental health services and educational programming by giving students a robust and flexible way to use technology to seek out support 24/7. Mental health support needs are unique to each student, and by providing a variety of resources, we hope to encourage students to seek the support that best fits their needs.”
“We are hopeful that this resource will be well received by students,” said Ellie Sturgis, director of the Thomas E. Cook Counseling Center. “It provides an option for almost immediate contact with a clinician if they have issues they would like to discuss, regardless of the time of day or night or the location of the student or the device they are using.”
TimelyCare at Virginia Tech offers three services for students.
TalkNow connects a student with a counselor to address problems before they snowball. It provides students with immediate care when they experience stress or anxiety and need someone to talk to in the moment.
Scheduled counseling allows students to make appointments with counselors licensed in Virginia with a limit of 12 scheduled counseling appointments per academic year.
Health coaching provides information and guided sessions on well-being topics such as dealing with conflict, time management, exercise, sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness.
“It is important to us to provide students with choices in the type of counselor they would prefer, whether it is a particular identity, affiliation, or specialty,” said Chris Wise, assistant vice president for Student Affairs. “TimelyCare gives students options for choosing counselors they identify with or who share similar life experiences.”
TimelyCare accommodates more than 250 languages and offers translation services. The service also is Americans-with-Disabilities-Act accessible through the app. Students can connect to TimelyCare through a phone, computer, or tablet, and they can choose phone or video sessions. Another benefit is that students can access TimelyCare when they are home for holidays or away from campus for internships, regardless of their location in the United States. TalkNow is available internationally with a U.S.-based phone number or virtual private network.
And TimelyCare is fast.
“When a student is in distress, it is important for them to be able to access services as quickly as possible because mental health conditions can impair academic performance significantly,” said Sturgis. “When a student has to wait a few days or weeks to initiate services, the distress often increases and problems can intensify. If an individual is able to talk over a situation quickly, they can often reduce this escalation.”
Nationwide, the need for mental health counseling services on university campuses continues to increase with the demand for services at Virginia Tech growing by 8 to 10 percent in a typical year.
“The quality of our counselors at Virginia Tech is extremely good; however, the demand for appointments continues to challenge us and it is difficult to hire enough counselors to keep up with that demand,” said Wise. “With a 24/7, 365-day virtual health service in addition to our in person offerings, we believe this will help us alleviate the backlog for appointments.
“We suggest all students download the TimelyCare app and register now, so that in a time of need, they will not have to go through the registration process.”