BYU provides mental health options during COVID-19 outbreak

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A student checks the BYU website following the announcement that classes will be moving online. BYU is encouraging professors to check on students during the COVID-19 epidemic despite classes becoming remote. (Decker Westenburg)

BYU and other Utah organizations are working to help students stay healthy as residents across the nation practice social distancing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified that the outbreak of COVID-19 can cause stress and anxiety for many people. According to the CDC coronavirus website, everyone may react differently to stressful situations, but “coping with stress will make you, the people you care about and your community stronger.”

The CDC shared the following recommendations in relation to mental health management during the COVID-19 outbreak:

  • Take breaks from listening to or watching the news
  • Utilize breathing techniques such as meditation  
  • Exercise well
  • Continue getting plenty of sleep 
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Try to complete activities you enjoy
  • Connect with others 

BYU professors have been asked to address students’ emotional well-being. BYU also encouraged professors to consider setting up study groups to combat isolation. 

BYU continues to offer help through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). The office offers crisis appointments during its normal operating hours via telecommunication. A counselor can be reached at 801-422-3035. Current patients of CAPS can meet with counselors using online platforms. Students also have access to a 24-hour, on-call psychologist. 

According to CAPS psychologist Jonathan Cox, individuals who are not taking classes spring or summer but who will be full-time or three-quarter-time students in the fall of 2020 still qualify for online services as long as they are physically located within the state of Utah. 

Some of these online services include Quick Care, biofeedback appointments, group therapy and individual therapy. If a student is physically located outside the state of Utah, they can meet with the case manager over Zoom to discuss how to find therapeutic services in their state.

CAPS also allows full-time students access to applications called Sanvello and SilverCloud. Both programs are provided to students to help them learn about mental health management. A premium subscription to Sanvello can be accessed by using a net ID paired with @byu.edu (). For more information on how to create a SilverCloud account, visit the CAPS website.

The CAPS Student Outreach Council, a group of undergraduate students who volunteer their time to help with mental health outreach efforts, is hosting a 30-day mental health social media challenge on Instagram. The challenge can be found at @BYUCAPS on Instagram or under the hashtag #CAPS30DayChallenge.

The ideas shared during the challenge highlight some of the CDC recommendations. On day eight, the group shared recommendations about types of breathing techniques to reduce anxiety. Another day highlighted ideas about connecting with others to combat loneliness.

BYU student Amy Neal has been utilizing some of the recommended techniques to help overcome anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. One way she targets anxiety and stress is monitoring her media usage.

“I limit how much news I am consuming in a day. I get my news from one to two sources I trust,” Neal said. “On bad, high anxiety days, I will only pay attention to coronavirus updates from those one to two trusted sources.”

She also utilizes breathing techniques and tries to keep a normal schedule to help maintain anxiety.

She wants people to remember to have compassion for themselves. “Remember that this hasn’t ever happened before, so if you are not doing well and it’s taken you by surprise, just be kind to yourself through the tough times,” Neal said.

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