Mental Health Resources for EOU Students in 2023

The first day I spoke with Dr. Marianne Weaver, licensed psychologist and Director of the Eastern Oregon University Counseling Center, a gust of wind howled sharply outside the window situated over my computer desk. It was a dark and blustery afternoon in the Oregon high desert — typical during these long, unending winter months. I was calling the Counseling Center for a recent update on student mental health resources. The previous articles, published in The Voice in 2020 and 2021, had taken place during the lock-down era of the pandemic. I wanted to find out how students have been doing with the transition to a new, “post-COVID” world. 

I mention to Dr. Weaver that the most recent article had been written by another “Caiti,” only spelled a bit differently. Dr. Weaver pauses a moment, then says she does recognize the name of former Voice employee Caiti McGowan from two years ago. I don’t ask about the interview back in 2020 with former Voice employee Tabitha Compton, but I get the feeling she’d recognize her name as well. 

I lament that I wish I had that gift, being able to recall names. Sometimes I’ll forget a name almost immediately after meeting someone. She states that this is a necessary skill for any counselor. Names are important; clients need to feel recognized and seen.

We agree on a date at the end of January over Zoom. I ask how students currently feel about Zoom as, back in 2020, students were initially hesitant to transition from in-person sessions to virtual meetings. Dr. Weaver tells me that EOU and the IT department worked hard to set up secure connections to protect student privacy and HIPAA confidentiality. Students feel comfortable meeting over Zoom now, in part because it works so well, and that they’ve adapted to online formats in general. 

There have been no student complaints over the virtual meetings since this school year started. Students like that they don’t have to travel to campus. There’s more flexibility for remote students living in Oregon. At some point she hopes that in-person appointments will return soon, but Zoom will likely always be an option. The Counseling Center would be adopting a hybrid model of both appointment types. Although there are still no in-person meetings at this time, Dr. Weaver and fellow EOU counselor Simeon Kulp, M.Ed., are often spotted around campus — such as in residence halls, Quinn Coliseum, and elsewhere — so they’re also available to students in that capacity. 

State licensures prevent counselors from providing services for students outside the state of Oregon. For online EOU students residing outside of Oregon, she suggests reaching out to the Student Affairs office to be connected to local resources.

Dr. Weaver stresses the importance of campus-wide mental health care and awareness. Training is provided for EOU staff, such as in residence halls where they are implementing sexual assault prevention programs. When recognizing that a student is in crisis, EOU staff can help them get connected with Colleen Dunne-Cascio in Student Relations

This interdisciplinary approach can help students better engage with services, especially those who usually lean on family for support. College can be especially challenging when a student’s  regular support network is no longer close by. In those cases, it may be that a Resident Advisor will be the person they reach out to for help. They act as a buffer zone for students who are struggling and often hesitant to seek counseling.

I mention briefly that I can personally attest to the effectiveness of this approach. I had been spiraling into a deep mental health crisis, and it was escalating. I was floundering. I made a dark, off-hand comment in an email to the Financial Aid Office that must have set off alarm bells. They immediately caught onto the tone and knew something wasn’t quite right. I was referred to Colleen and was connected with local emergency services. If that comment had been overlooked or ignored, I might not be here. Awareness and attention to warning signs truly saves lives. 

When asked how we can normalize and raise awareness for mental health care on campus and in our community, Dr. Weaver suggests to keep talking about it. The more we engage in these important conversations, the more normal it becomes. Being open about our problems, struggles, and needs can help others feel safe talking about them as well. 

Additionally, there are some big changes coming for the EOU psychology department. The new online Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling starts next fall. The program is designed for graduate students interested in starting or continuing a professional counseling career. Dr. Weaver suggests that those with a penchant for leadership or teaching also look into pursuing a doctoral degree in psychology. 

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