Mental health is an important issue for college students. Between classes, jobs, extracurriculars, planning their futures and navigating the adult world for the first time in their lives, they can end up overwhelmed by responsibilities. But if you’re a student having trouble keeping up in class, struggling with stress, anxiety, your identity or any other mental or emotional health issue, know that there are plenty of resources for you at Willamette. As you might have read on the cards scattered across campus bathrooms, Bistro tables and the lobby of Bishop Wellness Center, you are not alone.
Some resources both on and off campus are better known than others: ask a Willamette student where to go for medical issues of any kind, physical or mental, and they will likely tell you about Bishop Wellness Center. Bishop provides a wide variety of medical support at little or no cost to students, including free counseling services. Counseling is generally available by appointment with designated drop-in hours each school day, but during November and December they will be moving entirely to a same-day appointment model. Students have never had to wait more than a few hours for an appointment during this schedule in the past, according to Director of Bishop Don Thomson.
Bishop is a hub for many other support networks available to students. For example, WUTalk, Willamette’s mental health hotline, is connected to Bishop Wellness Center. According to Thomson, when a student calls the WUTalk number, (503) 375-5353, they are connected to a company called ProtoCall, which is based in Portland. ProtoCall contracts with numerous institutions, but when a counselor on duty at their center receives a call from Willamette, they can see where the call is coming from and access a list of specific Willamette resources. Bishop communicates with WUTalk and sends them updated information on resources, according to Thomson.
After calling WUTalk, students will be asked if they need a counselor or a clinician. Trained crisis counselors are available to talk to students in crisis, and clinicians can refer callers to local resources that Bishop has sent them.
“Prior to having WUTalk, all of the counselors were on call all the time,” said Thomson. “They could be woken up in the middle of the night by a call, which obviously isn’t ideal for either the counselor or the student.” With WUTalk, which is available 24/7, students can reach trained professionals at any hour.
WUTalk does write up the content of calls it receives from Willamette and this information is sent to Bishop Wellness and put in the student’s Bishop record. However, like other Bishop Wellness services, these records are completely confidential. No one else on or off campus, including family members, can see that a call was placed.
“It’s totally protected from any other record on campus,” said Thomson.
WUTalk is one of many resources at Willamette that can be used on behalf of another student. Often in mental health crises, people can have trouble accessing resources on their own, so many services can be used by third parties as well.
If you are concerned about a friend or fellow student and feel comfortable talking to them about it, you can ask them to try a counseling session at Bishop. Counselors can serve as starting points for figuring out a plan to help you or your friend in the future.
According to Brom Lockard (‘22), who used Bishop’s counseling services last year, they were helpful in finding him further resources.
“They recommended finding a therapist off-campus. They then scheduled me an appointment with a case manager at Bishop, who brought up a list of therapists that took my insurance, told me what other students had said about them and offered to help me call,” he said.
If you’re concerned about someone but don’t feel comfortable talking to them directly, you can also submit a CARE report. CARE stands for Campus Assessment, Response & Evaluation, and refers to a network of staff who work to support students. The form is available on the Willamette website, and can be submitted anonymously. According to the Willamette website, when someone submits a CARE report for mental health, it’s sent to the Behavioral Review Team (BRT), a team of staff that oversees student health and safety. The BRT will reach out to the student, but unless there’s an immediate danger, it’s ultimately up to the student to accept help.
“I always tell folks if you have a concern, send in [a] CARE report, no matter how big or small, critical or not. Sometimes there are other reports that other folks may have already submitted that can tie into the bit of information you have. No amount of information is insignificant,” said Tori Ruiz, the Student CARE and Conduct Case Manager.
If someone is in immediate danger, Ruiz recommends to call Campus Safety.
“They are equipped to contact folks who can help and get emergency services to the right location quickly,” she said.
If you do find yourself in a critical situation, particularly if you aren’t on campus, there are still options available. The Psychiatric Crisis Center, located off of 12th St. behind the Salem Hospital, is specialized to provide help in a mental health crisis, acting as an emergency room for psychiatric issues.
“At least one Qualified Mental Health Professional (QMHP) is on duty at all times to provide face-to-face assessments and crisis counseling… 7 days a week, 24 hours a day,” they state on their site.
Children in the U.S. are generally trained by schools and families to call 911 when they’re in trouble, so that’s most people’s first instinct in an emergency. However, in some cases Psychiatric Crisis Center can provide better and faster care than the emergency room.
“In my experience, in the ER you don’t see a counselor immediately,” said Amanda France (‘22). At the Crisis Center, according to France, “You just meet with a counselor. It’s more streamlined, in that it’s specific for mental health.”
The Crisis Center is less well-known outside the community of those who struggle with mental health, so knowing that it’s an option is important for friends, family and those who might be helping someone in crisis.
“I think more people should know about it because they would benefit from it rather than going to the ER, or not going anywhere at all,” said France.
Indeed, going to the emergency room or any other medical setting can be daunting or anxiety-inducing for many people. If you have a friend who seems to be having trouble with this, ask if they’d like you to accompany them, whether it’s driving to the hospital, attending a support group or going to Bishop to schedule a counseling appointment.
Emotional support can be one of the most vital resources for someone struggling with mental health. Willamette’s mental health club, Active Minds, is a place where students can find that support in an inclusive and friendly space. They meet every Wednesday from 6-7 p.m. and Sunday from 1:30-2:30 p.m. in Smullin 117.
“Our Wednesday meetings are more of a community interaction time, where people can get to know other people who struggle with mental health and find a group that understands what it’s like to have some restriction on life that is difficult to explain to other people,” said Taylor Gruber (‘22), the club’s president. “[Our] Sunday meetings are to organize events and outreach—to make resources less scary and easier to approach.”
Active Minds is in the middle of some updates this semester: they may soon be changing their name, so keep an eye out for their new title. Meeting times are not scheduled to change. There is also a new group within the club specifically to provide support for people who have struggled with eating disorders.
It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: you are not alone. These are only a handful of the many resources available to students, both those struggling with mental health issues and those who care about them. If you encounter a problem that isn’t covered by these resources, contact them anyway and they will be able to direct you to support. On the Willamette website, you can find on-campus resources for sexual assault, academic support, gender identity, interpersonal violence or any issue you may be confronting that isn’t covered here. Never be afraid to reach out for help—there will always be someone ready to reach back for you.