KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A global pandemic, a heated election year, social justice issues—there’s a lot weighing on everyone’s minds right now.
“I would imagine that just about everyone has experienced an increase in stress during this pandemic. The fear and anxiety that comes along with it can be overwhelming,” says Dr. Brian Fuller, director of Counseling Services at Western Michigan University.
A new self-help application available to WMU students, faculty and staff offers a number of tools and resources aimed at managing mental health. In support of the University’s wellness mission, WellTrack allows users to track their mood over time, identify stressors, intentionally schedule self-care activities and learn about strategies to manage feelings of depression, anxiety and stress.
“WMU is committed to promoting the mental health and well-being of all WMU students and creating a healthy community,” Fuller says.
A recent national survey of college students completed by the Healthy Minds Network and American College Health Association found the prevalence of depression has increased from fall 2019 to spring 2020. A higher proportion of students also reported their mental health negatively impacted their academic performance from March through May 2020, when COVID-19 prompted unprecedented shutdowns. Symptoms of mental health conditions were already high among the college student population before the pandemic, and they’re only increasing in this “new normal.” That’s why Breanna Traynor, associate director of mental health outreach, is on a mission to connect as many students as possible to WellTrack.
“If we aren’t taking care of ourselves, if we’re not taking care of our mental health, then how are we going to be able to thrive and do the things that we want to be able to do?” she says, adding that intentional mental health monitoring isn’t only important for those people who feel the need to seek professional counseling. It’s also important to be proactive, rather than reactive, in recognizing issues. “I think we’re realizing more and more that we have to do more prevention work, and so the goal of this app is to help students start thinking that way as well.”
“Not everyone is open to participating in therapy, and not everyone needs to meet with a therapist in order to learn life skills to improve well-being,” Fuller adds. “This evidence-based self-help online tool can be used from anywhere, any time, as often as needed.”
WellTrack is secure and confidential. Users have the ability to connect it to Counseling Services if they are receiving treatment and want their counselor to be able to monitor their progress and suggest useful tools within the program, but it’s not a required feature. The application also offers free mindfulness and meditation recordings.
“This app is brand new, but I hope that it’ll be a quick and easy way for students to learn more tools for how to check in with themselves as they’re feeling really stressed or overwhelmed,” Traynor says. “We care about students’ wellness and also want them to succeed in school. Those things have to go hand in hand.”
WellTrack is one of several initiatives at Western focused on well-being and educating the whole student. A number of other mental health and wellness resources are also available on the Counseling Services website, including information about how to receive immediate assistance.
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