Helping Integrative Wellbeing Services meet campus needs

Williams students (sharing with faculty and staff),

Many of you may have seen headlines about mental health challenges among college-age and younger people in the country right now. Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association jointly declared a national emergency in adolescent mental health.

We are writing to describe how this trend is showing up at Williams, and to outline adjustments that our Integrative Wellbeing Services (IWS) team is making to meet the levels of need and demand that we’re seeing on campus.

Mental health at Williams is a broad heading that includes in-house and contract telehealth psychotherapy and psychiatry care; student self-scheduled supportive sessions; a variety of groups and workshops; and ChooseWell, a resource hub for students.

It also includes same-day crisis sessions and access to a 24-hour emergency clinician-on-call service. As a reminder, if you or someone you know is experiencing a life-threatening emergency, please call 911 (dial 9-911 if calling from a campus phone).

For help with an urgent psychological crisis, please call IWS at (413) 597-2353 and select Option 2 to speak to the on-call clinician. You can also call Campus Safety and Security at (413) 597-4444 to be connected with crisis services at any time. Crisis care is available around the clock, 365 days a year.

We and the IWS team are encouraged that so many of you have reached out for support this year, and we strongly encourage you to keep doing so. In the last three weeks alone we’ve seen a significant increase in requests for ongoing psychotherapy, which has now resulted in a waitlist that likely will extend through the end of this semester. When we saw this outcome we quickly convened a group of IWS staff and college leaders to develop additional strategies to meet the need.

If you aren’t already being seen by IWS and need support this semester, we want you to be able to initiate services as soon as possible. As a first step, please reach out to IWS so that one of our clinicians can talk with you about appropriate care plans for your situation. We can then connect you to live video psychotherapy and/or psychiatry sessions through our partners at TalkSpace.

For those new to Williams, TalkSpace is an outside, HIPAA-compliant telehealth service that Williams makes available to all enrolled students free of charge. Via TalkSpace, you can access up to four 30-minute live video psychotherapy sessions per month with a diverse nationwide list of licensed providers, along with unlimited messaging. This semester we also expanded the relationship with TalkSpace to offer live video psychiatry services.

While we recommend consulting with IWS to understand your options first, you may reach out to TalkSpace directly if you wish. There’s no waitlist for therapy sessions through TalkSpace, so this is the best option for students at this time.

Meanwhile, here are some of the other steps we’re taking to expand our services:

We’re increasing the hours of select clinical staff and local caregivers on contract in order to level off our waitlist and then eliminate it over time. We already have a psychiatrist available to help students manage their medications and are seeking to expand our ability to provide psychiatric services where needs are increasing.

We’re also initiating searches for additional counseling staff so that we can continue expanding our offerings. The college has been generous in authorizing work to start addressing this critical need ahead of the standard budget cycle. While hiring takes time, and there is a local shortage of licensed clinicians with available hours to assist us, we do believe that we can gradually build additional capacity through recruitment.

IWS has also been hosting sessions with Williams faculty and staff to educate our community about the current trend, and to coach people on how to identify signs of concern and quickly connect students to resources.

We all feel deep care and responsibility for each other. Clinical support is one crucial way to help. While Williams has almost tripled our IWS staff since 2012, and very significantly increased the range and amount of services, as well as the number of students engaged with us, demand is still growing. Our goal in this context is to support every student by offering a spectrum of services, from teaching healthy coping and self-care skills to providing clinical psychotherapy and psychiatry services. Please visit the IWS website for more information.

Thank you for the work each of you is doing to help the people around you, and to care for yourself, as well.

Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College and Hales Professor of Psychology
Wendy Adam, Director of Integrative Wellbeing Services