How to Utilize Online Mental Health Care as a Student

Kelly Muic
Kelly Muic
Grade School Principal; Ed.D. in Leadership and Administration, Point Park University, PA

Why Mental Health Care is Important as a Graduate Student

It is ironic how quickly the excitement and joy you experience when you receive your acceptance letter into graduate school can easily be replaced with stress and anxiety. Attending graduate school is an accomplishment in its own right. Once you map out your class schedule, study schedule, perhaps a part- or full-time work schedule, you face the realization that your time is extremely limited. Socializing is a luxury. Relationships could be compromised, and your time to sleep and exercise could be reduced. You may find yourself overwhelmed with the thought, “I will never be able to do this.” The stress you experience during this time in your life can be overwhelming. That is why taking care of your health, including your mental health, is extremely important. You are stretched extremely thin in terms of time and energy, but you must attend to your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. As the flight attendant states before take-off, you must place the oxygen mask on yourself first before assisting others. You must take care of yourself if you wish to be of help to anyone else.

Your mental health has a direct effect on all areas of your life which is the leading reason that it must be attended to and not forgotten. Your mental health can impact your physical health due to the mind-body connection. A busy person can easily shove feelings and emotions aside because of lack of time. However, this practice should be avoided at all costs. It is extremely important to take time to process those feelings and reflect on one’s emotional status. It is also crucial to find a work-life balance so that you can experience optimal levels of happiness, productivity, and energy. All of which are needed if you intend to finish graduate school with your sanity intact!

Barriers to Access that Off-Campus Students May Face

While living off-campus does have its advantages, commuting to and from school can take its toll. The travel time adds to an already full plate that usually includes attending class, studying, maybe a full-time job, and a family, if not a relationship. Off-campus and online students do miss out on socialization opportunities that on-campus students have readily available. This could impact the person’s ability to build relational support with other graduate students who are experiencing similar stress and frustrations.

Online Mental Health Care Resources for Students

Online mental health care resources are still a fairly new option to assist people in accessing mental health treatment. This option opens up flexibility in scheduling that does not exist when you choose treatment face-to-face. Counseling sessions can occur anytime you choose which opens up a person’s access to mental health care from one’s own living room.

Your options are also not limited by geography. Online counseling provides people with many different choices in the type of access they prefer and can offer various individualistic features as well. You can choose to receive counseling by phone, online chat, video conferencing, and messaging. Online counseling offers more privacy since you can have a counseling session without leaving your house. This aspect helps to remove any stigma that some people perceive when receiving therapy. Online counseling can also be more affordable when compared to the costs of in-person therapy sessions. The online counselors are just as experienced and can provide expertise in specialized areas.

There are a few suggestions to keep in mind when exploring online counseling as an option. 1) Online counseling should be reserved as a supplemental form of mental health care and should not be the only treatment you receive. 2) Online therapists are still bound by federal and state laws, as well as by a code of ethics. Make sure the online resource maintains HIPPA compliance. 3) Investigate that your chat sessions are secured with financial institution encryption levels to provide you with safe and secure access to your therapist. 4) Investigate the credentials of the therapists which should be made known to you. A person must be a certified and licensed counselor/therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Here are a few resources that you can begin exploring that have received positive reviews: talkspace.com, breakthrough.com, and betterhelp.com.

There is also a myriad of meditation, breathing, and mindfulness apps available that can help you relax and keep your stress in check. A few notable options include: themindfulnessapp.com, headspace.com, and calm.com.

In sum, attending to your mental health care needs is an important endeavor. Your mental health affects your physical health and should be regarded as important. For more information, please visit: https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health.

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