Counseling Services helping students cope with pandemic-related anxiety, stress

Contact: Joy Brown

Student stares out the window.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University’s Counseling Services has been helping a greater number of students cope with pandemic-related anxiety and stress, and is committed to doing so for the duration of this crisis and beyond.

Located at Sindecuse Health Center, Counseling Services is now offering telehealth counseling for qualifying students both on and off campus, as long as they meet eligibility requirements. 

Along with health-related fears for themselves and loved ones, and disruption to routines, “there has been some grief associated with losing out on experiences as a result of cancelations and also frustration,” says  Dr. Brian Fuller, director of counseling services. “This has had an impact on sleep patterns, appetite and focus at times.”

Counseling Services Director Dr. Brian Fuller holds up a list of questions coming into his department about counseling services amid COVID-19 closures.

Western Michigan University Counseling Services Director Brian Fuller, Ph.D., LLP

He wants to reassure WMU students that Counseling Services is open and available to offer emotional help virtually. They are scheduling crisis appointments, continuing to work with established clients and helping students now residing at home to find local mental health providers, all while prescreening everyone who still needs to access services in person at Sindecuse Health Center to reduce the potential for COVID-19 spread.

“Things have been evolving rapidly and, as a result, we have and will continue to adapt to help meet the needs of our WMU students,” says Fuller. “We are working very hard to plan carefully how to continue to support all WMU students during this difficult time.”

Sindecuse Health Center is encouraging anyone in need of counseling services to call (269) 387-1850 to talk to an intake counselor for prescreening. Any student seeking telehealth counseling must meet the screening criteria and eligibility requirements, which one can read through online.

Fuller says for anyone experiencing mental health issues, your support network is a good place to start.

“Stay connected and check in with others on a regular basis and ask them how you can best support them at this time,” Fuller says. “Also, focus on your own self-care so that you are in a good space to help support others if needed.”

For those suffering from anxiety and stress, Fuller suggests the following reduction measures:

  • Try to limit the time you spend consuming COVID-19 news. Maybe check in once a day.
  • Visit state and local government sites for up-to-date closings information, and visit reputable sites such as the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for correct information about the virus.
  • Do your best to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same times.
  • Develop and maintain a routine with regard to study, relaxation, meals, exercise and sleep.
  • Maintain good nutrition and regular meals.
  • Limit intake of caffeine and alcohol.
  • Stay active and spend time outdoors, if possible.
  • Do yoga, meditation, deep breathing and similar practices.
  • Maintain social distance, but stay in touch with friends and family.
  • Reach out for support if needed.

Online resources to help put these methods into practice include the CDCSubstance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and WMU Counseling Services.

Fuller urges people to seek professional help “when anxiety is causing a significant functional impairment in some way. You will want to assess for the impact it is having on your social connections, family, job, academics, sleep, appetite, concentration, etc.”

Here’s a list of places to visit for mental health emergencies:

  • Borgess Medical Center ER, 1521 Gull Road, Kalamazoo, MI 49048; (269) 226-4815
  • Bronson Hospital ER, 601 John St., Kalamazoo, I 49007; (269) 341-6386

After-hours hotlines:

  • Gryphon Place: 221 or (269) 381-4357
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: (800) 273-8255
  • Crisis Text Line: Text “START” TO 741741. A trained specialist receives the text and responds quickly.
  • Michigan Voices4 Sexual Assault Hotline: For sexual assault victims seeking help and support. Text request for help to (866) 238-1454.
  • STEVE Fund crisis line: For young people of color who are feeling stressed, depressed or anxious. Text “STEVE” to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.