In the time of coronavirus, many students are more isolated than ever, stuck in their dorms or off-campus apartments with very little opportunity to do what students usually do outside of classes — take part in campus extracurricular activities that aren’t on Zoom, socialize with other students, or form relationships with professors that can benefit them later in life.
Indeed, when so many activities are restricted, students have less of a chance to feel like they’re part of the crowd.
That’s why, in the face of a nationwide uptick in mental health and wellness needs among college students, the State University of New York has announced a plan to expand access to mental health services to every student at SUNY’s 64 campuses across the state.
And as part of the plan, SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University in East Flatbush, which contains both a medical school and a local hospital, as well as schools for various health-related professions, will be one of the two hubs of the system. The other will be SUNY Upstate Medical University near Buffalo. As part of its curriculum, SUNY Downstate has a Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
To put the new plan into effect, SUNY is partnering with Thriving Campus, a mobile-friendly app utilized throughout the country that makes it easier for students to reach out for help off-campus. The partnership will provide every student from SUNY’s colleges and universities with access to a network of more than 6,000 licensed mental health service providers.
In addition, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras announced that SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University will also join SUNY Upstate Medical University as a hub for tele-counseling for SUNY students. The tele-counseling program offers cognitive behavioral therapy, consultative services for clinicians, and crisis assistance provided by SUNY’s own physicians, psychologists or nurse practitioners on a secure online platform.
By adding SUNY Downstate as a second hub to supplement Upstate Medical, SUNY will expand the program to an additional five campuses by the end of this year. Ten campuses are currently participating, including Binghamton University, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Morrisville, Nassau Community College, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Oneonta, Onondaga Community College, SUNY Oswego, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, and SUNY Potsdam. The program drastically reduces wait times for tele-counseling services, a SUNY spokesperson said.
SUNY will also expand a peer-to-peer assistance hotline operated by the University at Albany to all students across the entire SUNY system. Students do not need to be in crisis to use this hotline. It’s a stigma-free, secure line for connecting about emotional, social and other life issues. Students will be able to get the support they need, whether it’s a long-term treatment for a specific issue, or whether they just feel down and need someone to connect with.-
SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University President Wayne Riley said, “The coronavirus pandemic has caused a sea change in the way we assess and address mental health and wellness needs for everyone. By connecting students early on to licensed, mental health service providers through the Thriving Campus App, and providing access to resources, students can get the help they need during particularly stressful periods.
“SUNY Downstate is proud to join our sister campuses as a tele-counseling center for students where we will provide interventions that can assist in mitigating challenges our students face,” he added.