Help during turbulent times

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

A community college counselor discusses providing mental health services during a pandemic. 

The coronavirus pandemic has affected people not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally. At Laramie County Community College (LCCC) in Wyoming, staff are making sure students can get the help they need during this turbulent time.

Here is a Q&A with Melissa Goertz, interim counselor at LCCC.

Q: How is the campus preparing to help students with emotional/mental health issues during the pandemic?

Goertz: Our counseling department initially reached out via phone to current clients to inform them of the new procedures. We have not had a lapse in services for counseling during this time, even during the transition. I am working from home and conducting sessions via HIPPA compliant Zoom or via phone for those that struggle with the virtual option. We are posting on our Facebook page tips for students for stress/anxiety management during this time.

We also have a 24-hour phone line available for crisis situations should students need that when we are unable to be reached after hours or on the weekends.

Q: Have you spoken with students yet? If so, what have you heard from them about their worries?

Goertz: Yes, I have spoken with students. Most are concerned about how the rest of the semester will go with their classes being moved to solely online. There is some anxiety surrounding that, however, they are also optimistic about the what the future holds.

Q: Besides the short-term issues, do you think that this crisis may have long-term effects on the mental health of students, as well as staff and faculty?

Goertz: I think that our students are resilient and will be able to overcome this bump in the road. However, there may be long-term effects for anyone, especially those with current mental health concerns like depression and anxiety. I believe that this time will increase depressive and anxious symptoms and it is important for us to create more space for the students to process those emotions. It is also a great opportunity to slow down as staff and faculty and really care for one another in this time. We have a lot going on at our own homes with all the changes and allowing ourselves grace will be key to helping ourselves in this time.

PTSD is a real factor in the aftermath of this unprecedented event in world history. Everyone should be allowed the space to grieve in the way they need to grieve, safely of course. This includes faculty and staff of LCCC, not just the students. We are all under a tremendous amount of stress and uncertainty as we try to serve our students to the best of our ability as well as take care of our own homes and one another. This is a time for reflection and growth as well. I encourage anyone to reach out wherever they are and to whomever they can.

Learn more about efforts at community colleges to provide mental health help in this CC Daily article.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.