Students and UAA community can manage pandemic stress with online resources

Finding ways to cope with stress during these trying times, even if it isn’t done in person, can help the UAA community improve its mental health.

Dr. Grant Sasse, director of UAA’s Psychological Services Center, and clinical psychology master’s student Amber Frasure help students from their homes
through the PSC’s new telehealth services. Photo by James Evans/UAA.

Due to social distancing, face-to-face mental health services are not as readily available. There are services available through email, Skype, phone call or text. The UAA Department of Psychology operates the Psychological Services Center, or PSC, which provides mental health services to UAA students and the community. The department made its services available remotely during the COVID-19 crisis. Dr. Eric S. Murphy, a professor and the director of the Department of Psychology, shares how they are able to do this at this time.

“We have converted entirely to telehealth services, so clients can be treated by a therapist without leaving their homes,” Murphy said.

Students and the community are able to make appointments at the PSC via telehealth services by calling (907) 786-1795 to make an appointment. The department offers counseling services provided by UAA clinicians who are graduate master and doctoral students supervised by licensed psychologists. Clients at the PSC do not need to be affiliated with UAA to receive services.

Dr. Sara Buckingham is an assistant professor of psychology at UAA. She recommended following the Commit, Accept, Relax, Exercise, Schedule Model, or CARES, model, developed by Dr. Joel Hughes of Kent State University in Ohio. The model focuses on simple tasks those under stress can do daily to manage anxiety and worry. CARES has coping exercises such as breathing techniques, journaling and advice on how to create a routine that will break up the endless quarantine days.

Dr. Buckingham also suggested a podcast provided by the American Psychological Association called “Speaking of Psychology: Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19 with Lynn Bufka, Ph.D.” The podcast provides practical information related to COVID-19, like insurance issues and ways to manage stress. Dr. Bufka is the associate executive director for practice research and policy at the American Psychological Association.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness also has a thorough online COVID-19 Resource and Information Guide that Dr. Buckingham suggests. The guide has advice at length and numerous other resources related to COVID-19.

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The UAA Student Health and Counseling Center, or SHCC, is also available for mental health sessions via telehealth. Students can make appointments by calling (907) 786-4052. Their hours of operation right now are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Students should call the SHCC phone number to make an appointment and not go to the clinic in person, as it is closed due to health mandates.

Mary Woodring is a family nurse practitioner at the SHCC and encourages students to contact the clinic if they need to talk with someone about mental or physical health.

“We want to get the word out to students that we are still operating. We are just doing most of our sessions using telehealth, using programs like Zoom,” Woodring said.

There is also a Crisis Text Line for COVID-19. Text HOME to 741741 to reach a counselor. Help is also available on Facebook Messenger. Crisis Text Line offers free, confidential crisis support over text in the U.S. 24 hours, seven days a week.