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Westminster Counseling Center responds to COVID-19

Westminster Counseling Center responds to COVID-19

Westminster College’s Counseling Center has said they are following the institution’s COVID-19 protocol for in-person meetings and are holding off those live meetings until June 5. Group meetings are also canceled up to that same date. 

Addressing the issue of inability to meet in-person, the Counseling Center has updated its website with information on what to do if someone needs to use their resources.

Throughout Spring semester, the waitlist to schedule an appointment with the Counseling Center had concerned some students to know when they could talk to someone. 

With the campus going remote, there have been no further updates on that situation. There is currently no way of knowing how long or short the time getting off the waitlist is, according to the center’s director Erin Gibson. 

However, there are other ways the center is trying to get people the help they need during this adjustment.

Before online adjustments happened to classes and students were able to continue a regular college campus lifestyle, some students said they had concerns with outgoing information from the Counseling Center. 

Harrison Nye is currently finishing up his last semester at Westminster. Nye voiced concerns that even though it was evident students can get extra help from the Counseling Center, they said there was not enough information on campus about it. 

Director of Counseling Center, Erin Gibson, works in her office in the Counseling Center before the outbreak of COVID-19 causes Westminster College to go remote. Gibson said even before the need to go online, the center welcomed students to come check out its resources located in the basement of Shaw Student Center. (Hannah Foley)

“I would like to see more information on their website showing students where to go when they have issues,” Nye said. “Because having people aware that there is immediate help or outside resources available is helpful.”

Jake Wallace, a junior environmental science major, said he was surprised there was little to no information on campus or on the Counseling Center’s website on what to do when someone is in need of help. 

“It is important to put information out there and be more visible,” Wallace said. “To try to reach more people with the information, for instance they have groups and immediate crisis appointments, I didn’t know that and I know a lot of other students didn’t know that as well.”

Although the Counseling Center continues to have a waitlist, they suggest to continue to check student emails for updates. The center’s website offers a handful of sources with phone numbers of personnel available to call for help. 

“So technically we are still open, students can still reach out and email us,” said Erin Gibson, director of the Couseling Center. “Emailing is the best way to reach us and ask us direct questions. We do call in and check our voicemail frequently but if somebody wants questions or clarification on resources out there we are happy to help because we are still around.”

Since then, the Counseling Center has needed to make adjustments to put information out on their website. Gibson said the move to online has made the center adjust to reach students and their needs. 

“The good news, there is so much available online we didn’t have to recreate anything and there is so much built in support already going on [in] lots of organizations,” Gibson said. “What we put on our website is what other colleges and organizations are doing.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website offers information on how to cope during the uncertain times everyone is facing. 

“The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people,” according to the CDC. “Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.”

Other organizations, like the Mayo Clinic, have also provided information and tips on keeping mental stress at bay. The Mayo Clinic is a high specialized center that highlights on treating rare and complex conditions. 

Recently, the organization came out with an in-depth update to its page on how to handle the stress of COVID-19 — much like other organizations.

“Self-care strategies are good for your mental and physical health and can help you take charge of your life,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “Take care of your body and your mind and connect with others to benefit your mental health.”

Although un-established clients are unable to get direct counseling from staff at Westminster, the Counseling Center highlights similar suggestions as compared to ones from the CDC and the Mayo Clinic. 

Some of the Counseling Center’s suggestions and tips include the following:

Physical health

  • Free yoga classes on YouTube or other websites
  • Go outside to take a nice and refreshing walk

Sleeping habits

  • Use a white noise maker to help tune out some house noises 
  • Have a sleep schedule and get up earlier

Nutrition

  • Take the time to cook healthy food you enjoy
  • Be mindful of drug and alcohol consumption as a way to cope

Build a routine

  • Write out a schedule and stick to it 
  • Have a routine sleep schedule
  • Pause and take the time to be offline, away from phones
  • Reflect with the downtime

Address fears and doubts

  • Practice letting go of things you cannot change
  • Accept your emotions and reach out to people that can help
  • Take a break from social media and news on Covid-19

Reflect and engage in resilience activities 

  • University of Utah Health has provided Pointers from Amanda McNab, LSCW, a clinical staff development educator at University of Utah Health and Crisis and Diversion Services, on how you can cope with mental health during the pandemic.
  • Greater Good magazine, published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, has many articles curated to help during this time. The Greater Good Science Center also has a YouTube channel, expressive writing exercise, and self-compassion practice that students can explore. 

The Counseling Center said it is closely following the spread of COVID-19 because the situation is quickly changing.

“The health of our student community is our number one priority and all decisions will continue to be made with safety as the top concern,” according to the center.  

Erin Gibson said she has hope that students around the community know that they have the opportunity to get help and information. 

“Just because things are not as they usually are doesn’t mean that there are not options available,” Gibson said. “Even if those options don’t exist in our own center there are still options out there and our students are not alone.” 

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Hannah Foley
Hannah Foley is a junior at Westminster College. She is originally from Seattle, Washington, where yes it rains a lot. She loves working out, hanging out with friends and going to the movies. She’s passionate about music, dancing and she loves talking to new people -- and just talking in general.

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