Georgetown University is broadening access to mental health resources to provide more support for students in the virtual environment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In January, the university launched HoyaWell, a new telehealth resource, to meet increased demand for virtual mental health resources from students without access to campus. The new system offers virtual mental health services to students, including free, on-demand virtual counseling and up to 12 free scheduled counseling sessions for all students.
The implementation of HoyaWell demonstrates the university’s creativity in meeting students’ needs during the pandemic, according to Dr. John Wright, interim co-director of Georgetown’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services.
“We are committed to helping Georgetown students live meaningful lives, be confident in their mental health and wellbeing, and feel supported by a community upholding the values of diversity, equity and inclusion,” Wright wrote in a statement to The Hoya.
At the start of the pandemic, the university waived all fee-for-service charges for appointments with CAPS. However, since CAPS can only serve students in the Washington, D.C. area and states where CAPS clinicians are licensed, many students did not have access to the university’s mental health services, according to Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson.
“Living through a global pandemic is challenging for all of us, and we recognize the extra pressures our students are facing while balancing academic coursework, co-curricular obligations, home life and other personal challenges,” Olson wrote in a statement to The Hoya. “We encourage all of our students to take care of their mental health and wellbeing.”
In the two weeks since HoyaWell’s launch, almost 400 students have registered to use the service, according to Olson.
While HoyaWell is an encouraging step in the right direction, it is not sufficient for all students’ needs, according to Sonya Hu (COL ’22), the Georgetown University Student Association Mental Health Policy Chair.
“In a time characterized by mental health and financial stress, putting a paywall on mental health resources is misguided and prevents students, particularly low-income folks or students who are unable to discuss their mental health with their parents and must therefore independently pay for their care, from continuing to access the care that they need,” Hu wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The best way the university can support students is by facilitating conversation that de-stigmatizes mental illness and seeking help, according to Amanda Gao (NHS ’23), president of Georgetown’s Active Minds chapter, a national student organization dedicated to raising mental health awareness on college campuses.
“It’s important that the administration, deans, and professors help create a safe space for students. More collaboration with student groups to better understand our mental health needs is also very important,” Gao wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Many students at Georgetown are passionate about mental health and can understand each other’s struggles right now. It would be great to see the administration and student groups more united, and working together.”