On Jan. 11, Wittenberg students and faculty were granted access to Talkspace and Headspace, two digital mental wellness resources. After listening to feedback from students on campus as well as Student Senate, the university dedicated some of the funds the school received from the CARES Act to pay for these services.
“One of the big things we all agreed on that could use more funding was mental health resources during the pandemic,” an anonymous member of Student Senate said. “One thing that Senate thought of to combat this was increasing accessibility to the mental health services in an anonymous way, just because I know a lot of people don’t want to go to a school therapist or counselor. So, we thought of the idea of Talkspace.”
Student Senate was directly involved in the process of securing Talkspace as a resource for students and staff.
“We talked to some sales [representatives] from them, got a quote, and then handed it over to the administration,” the anonymous member said.
Director of Student Counseling Mathew West outlined the benefits of the program.
“Because of COVID, in the fact that students are isolated, we want people to be safe,” he said. “But we also know that part of that being safe, or part of having students on campus, means that there are restrictions in regard to things that you usually do for social outlets and feeling connected. We need to make sure that while we’re telling them to stay put, we also have to give them outlets and give them the support they need.”
While both the Talkspace and Headspace apps are focused on mental health and mindfulness, each has features that make it unique. After completing a few prompts that gather a user’s preferences and needs, Talkspace allows users to match with a therapist that they can communicate with asynchronously. Users can send their Talkspace therapist texts, emails or videos. Therapists view these messages and respond to them the following day. This differs from the synchronous therapy the Counseling Center offers, where students can schedule an appointment and talk to a therapist in real time.
Talkspace is unique because it allows users to contact their therapist as much or as little as they wish.
“If a student has a week where they have five or six contacts, that’s great,” West said. “If they have three weeks ago, none, that’s fine. It’s there for whenever they need it.”
West claims that Talkspace can be an outlet for a struggling student who isn’t sure what resources are right for them.
“That’s what’s really nice about Talkspace, especially those instances where they’re acute and not chronic, like this situation came up and I’m struggling with this class, or I’m struggling with this relationship… they can get an immediate response that way. It’s very, very private,” he said.
The privacy that the apps offer can make wellness resources more accessible for students.
“[For] some people, there’s a stigma,” West said. “They think [that they] don’t have the time to do it. Maybe it’s not bad enough. Talkspace would be ideal for them because they can put their toe in the water and really see what’s going on with that experience with a licensed therapist.”
Headspace, meanwhile, is focused on tasks that users can complete to improve their mindfulness. Some of the resources available through Headspace are meditation guidance, relaxing music and guided imagery. Doing these mindfulness activities are meant to help users handle stress and anxiety.
“I can speak about Headspace– I use it myself,” West said. “It’s got almost something for everybody on there; it’s got a lot of good stuff on sleep.”
For now, Talkspace and Headspace will be available to students until January of 2022.
“We’ll make an evaluation at the end,” West said. “When we look at all this, we’re looking at how often they’re being utilized. And if it’s a very popular app, we will probably have discussions on how we continue that beyond the first year.”
Even if students and faculty don’t have particular concerns at the moment, West encourages them to give these resources a try.
“It’s wellness,” he said. “People go to the doctor for… their yearly checkups. You don’t have to be sick to go to the doctor and have a relationship with a doctor about health and wellness. And it’s the same thing about counseling.”