The Personal Growth and Counseling Center offers students virtual mental health services

The students of California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) began the virtual fall semester amidst the COVID-19 pandemic after spending a summer in self-isolation. As students shelter in place, their academic careers continue, ultimately blurring the lines of work-life separation. 

To support students through this unprecedented time, CSUMB’s Personal Growth and Counseling Center (PGCC) launched a new online platform called [email protected], where individuals can find a space to check in with themselves, set goals and explore personalized resources that may aid them in coping with stress. 

PGCC Counselor Jessica Lopez said  [email protected] is a “pilot program at several CSU campuses and is funded by the Chancellor’s Office.” Lopez also said the PGCC is “excited to bring [the program] to CSUMB because we believe that it offers students the opportunity to maintain health and wellness,” and encourages, “prevention and early help-seeking behaviors [making] [email protected] a great way for students to attend to their wellness, especially during times of remote learning.”

While remote learning offers students the convenience to study from their own homes, their lack of in-person interactions come with both advantages and disadvantages. Dr. Daniel Reed from the PGCC asked students to “keep in mind that isolation is not always a negative or unwanted experience,” promising to inhibit depression or anxiety and said that some individuals see solitude as a “method of coping, processing and reflecting on one’s own experiences.” But due to the unforeseen breakout of COVID-19, the redundancy of self-isolation the virus brings to daily life has the potential to negatively affect the psyche. 

“Isolation becomes problematic when it limits our means of coping and changes our relationships,” Reed said. He also said COVID-19 has significantly changed people’s lives, forcing them to “navigate an ever-changing society with constantly shifting narratives about COVID-19,” where “rather than simply connecting with friends and family, physical and social barriers have changed our behaviors and relationships.” This lack of connection can be very stress inducing. 

“Our reactions to these changes can elicit feelings of despair, hopelessness, fear, frustration, and even apathy,” Reed said. “We are being forced to evolve and adapt at a much faster pace than usual- experiencing the growing pains of forced evolution and as a result, our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are reacting to these changes.”

Transfer student Joss Chesnas experienced a shift in her life as she began the new semester. “During the last few weeks of my previous semester we had adjusted to virtual learning,” Chesnas said “seeing [discussions of COVID-19] in the news every day does make it hard to stay positive with … transitioning into a new semester.” 

She also said she “felt slightly unprepared” for the new semester, but feels relieved “knowing [her] professors and counselors are willing to understand our situation and help us academically and mentally.” 

The PGCC also offers remote individual and group counseling, mental health training, anonymous mental health screenings, telemental health services and a virtual drop-in counseling hour called “Lets Talk,” presenting CSUMB students with a wide range of health and wellness resources. Lopez said although those services were typically designed to be held in person, proceeding with them virtually has given students “increased access to services that they may have not previously tried or felt like they had the time to do.” 

Students can also find various support groups through the PGCC such as the Africian American Heritage Male Support Group, Grief and Loss Support Group, Anxiety Support Group, Depression Support Group, LGBTQ+ Interpersonal Process Group and more. 

To access the PGCC’s various resources, visit their website here. 

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