CAPS is available to help students cope with their new way of life

Kim Gorman, director of Counseling and Psychological Services, said her staff is available for students needing tele-mental health services.

Students at Western Carolina University have had to adapt to a new way of learning with most classes shifting to online learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the many students who utilized WCU’s Counseling and Psychological Services, they’ve also had to adapt to a new way of receiving services with face-to-face meetings no longer allowed. CAPS Director Kim Gorman and her staff are in the process of figuring out the best way to provide help to those who need it, but for now her advice is to call the CAPS office.

“With the ever-changing landscape, we’ve certainly had to be mindful and cooperative with the guidelines that are coming down from the governor, the UNC System and the chancellor,” Gorman said. “We’re very much following those guidelines and doing what we need to do to keep our physical distance. We know that living in the mountains in this western part makes some of that technology a little bit difficult. We have been investigating and using guidance from the Legal Counsel Office about the use of other technology to do services.”

Gorman said CAPS is available to provide tele-mental health services to both pre-existing patients, as well as those who are having a difficult time adapting to their new way of learning and some of the problems that it can cause.

Anxiety and panic are two areas that can arise because of the pandemic. The uncertainty can make some preexisting symptoms of anxiety increase, Gorman said.

“We are aware some students don’t have the best home life situations and finding a place to shelter is not easy for them,” Gorman said. “We know that transitions from campus to this new location, we know that can be difficult. We’re hearing that from some students.”

Online learning also has created some distress for students who aren’t adept at learning in that format, she said.

Gorman is encouraging students to call the CAPS office to speak with a counselor and discuss their needs so appropriate recommendations can be made. For those who already had appointments scheduled, the CAPS staff has been in communication with them.

“We’ve had a fair number of calls,” Gorman said. “I think with students being off campus, what I hope they’re doing is turning to their natural support to manage some of that. Some of the students that we’ve met with previously who’ve had providers in their home locations are using those providers locally to support them. I think others have been looking towards friends and family members through this very difficult time. I think that’s a very reasonable option for us all, actually. That’s the way we’re going to get through this is together.”

CAPS also has online resources, including self-help videos such as “Managing Anxiety and Depression,” “Motivation” and “Wellness 101,” that can provide help.

Students needing to speak with a counselor are encouraged to call 828-227-7469 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Emergency or crisis clinicians can be reached after hours at 828-227-8911.