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University mental health resources move online

CAPS is now offering resources specifically relevant to the COVID-19 outbreak

For the past two to three weeks, there has been a gradual increase in new requests for services as many students seek support,
For the past two to three weeks, there has been a gradual increase in new requests for services as many students seek support,

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the University has moved various mental health resources online, such as the services offered by Student Health’s Counseling and Psychological Services and the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center. 

CAPS has transitioned all appointments online so that students may seek help while not physically on Grounds. In continuation with previously offered in-person services, CAPS is continuing to offer remote service to students through individual and group psychotherapy, psychiatry appointments, care management, referral assistance and day and after-hours emergency consultation — all conducted online or via phone. 

CAPS has also expanded its offerings to include resources that specifically target emotions and fears brought about by the pandemic and the shelter-in-place order that many students are currently living under throughout the country. 

Nicole Ruzek, director of CAPS, commented on these online health resources available to the University community in light of current events. 

“CAPS is rolling out a series of workshops/pre-recorded videos on loneliness, self-care, stress management, motivation and grief,” Ruzek said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “CAPS will also host a number of live, facilitated Zoom support session/coffee hours covering these same topics.”

Ruzek also encourages all students to check out the Student Health and Wellness COVID-19 wellbeing resources page for more information on staying healthy during this time. 

Additionally, all University students have free access to SilverCloud — an online platform that contains resources for helping students develop skills for managing stress, anxiety, sleep and depression. This self-guided program can be accessed at all hours of the day and every day of the week. Students can sign up for free using their U.Va. email address. 

The Women’s Center has also committed to continuing its services online. Students residing in Virginia who were receiving counseling through the center have been given the opportunity to continue to do so remotely through a HIPAA-compliant platform. 

This online platform is a telehealth platform whose security levels adhere to the data privacy requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act from 1996. This means that all data is encrypted, sessions are anonymous and none of the client’s information is stored. According to Director of the Women’s Center Abby Palko, most doctors and counselors across the country are providing telehealth options using one of several HIPAA-compliant video-conferencing options. 

However, licenses do not permit counselors to practice across state lines. As such, clients who are out-of-state are provided with phone check-ins and offered case management through the Women’s Center to find services in their state. 

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the Women’s Center had closed their waitlist for counseling as the staff reached full capacity. At this point, the counselors at the Women’s Center are having regular phone contact with people on the waitlist, and within the past month, these counselors have been able to move some of these individuals off the waitlist, as typically happens during this time of the year.

The Department of Student Health has also moved its WahooWell offerings online. WahooWell is a resource available to students to help them explore strengths, goals and motivations related to well-being. It is a positive, free and confidential resource. 

Students who are interested in joining WahooWell at this time can do so through the following five-minute survey which concludes with the scheduling of a 30-minute online WahooWell meeting. Follow-up appointments are available for those who want to seek further support. Any questions or concerns can be sent to Kristy Simpkins, a WahooWell facilitator, at

The Student Health department notes that WahooWell is a well-being resource and not a substitute for licensed mental health services. If you are experiencing panic attacks, anxiety, depression, little interest or pleasure in doing things, feeling down, depressed or hopeless, have thoughts of harm to self or others, or other symptoms that would be best treated by a licensed counselor or clinician, please contact CAPS by calling 434-243-5150 24/7, or 911 in case of emergency.

Two other resources in the Office of Health Promotion that Simpkins encourages students to check out are the Wahoo Weekender and the Recovery Support Services.

According to Simpkins, the Wahoo Weekender is a weekly peer e-newsletter highlighting what students are doing over the weekend. 

“We have developed special editions to include social distancing-friendly activities to stay connected and practice self-care,” Simpkins said.

Students can subscribe by filling out a Google form.

Additionally, the Collegiate Recovery Program is a supportive, confidential community of University students, faculty, staff and alumni in recovery or considering recovery from alcohol and other drug use disorders. This program offers weekly virtual recovery meetings as well as virtual social events. If interested, Recovery Support Coordinator Jen Cervi can be reached at for more information.

Student Health initially saw a drop in new requests for services, likely due to students going on spring break and then transitioning to online learning. For the past two to three weeks, however, there has been a gradual increase in new requests for services as many students seek support, according to Ruzek. 

The University’s Department of Student Health offers a number of other resources and platforms through which students can seek help and support during this time. Please call 434-924- 5362 to access services via phone, telemedicine or email. 

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated that individuals have been moved off of the waitlist for Women's Center counseling because of the move to remote counseling. The article has been updated to accurately state that people have been moved off the waitlist as usually happens during this time of the year.