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New UC Davis website turns smartphones into lifelines for at-risk students

December 9, 2013

Graphic of a mobile phone app Just in Case

Smartphones could become lifelines for UC Davis students who are having trouble coping or are concerned about someone in distress, thanks to a new mobile-friendly website.

Called “Just in Case,” the resource is part of a larger UC Davis initiative to reduce the stigma students may feel seeking mental health services and to provide innovative suicide prevention services and resources. It demonstrates how UC Davis is one community in which we care for each other.

Just in Case offers a menu of seven simply worded choices including: “I’m struggling to cope,” “I’m worried about a friend,” and “I might hurt myself.” From there, the resource helps students assess feelings and behaviors and guides them to appropriate resources on the campus and in the community.

“It can take a lot of courage for someone to be willing to seek help when in need,” says Zachary Ward, a staff psychologist with Counseling Services at UC Davis. “The moment someone is ready, we at Student Health and Counseling Services want to be right there with the resources and support to help. This mobile website is another way we can do just that.”

The launch of Just in Case at UC Davis comes as the stressful exam period begins today (Dec. 9) and continues through Dec. 13. To help students learn about the website, UC Davis is promoting it through emails to student organizations, the student health center’s website and LCD screens, the myucdavis Web portal for students and social media.

Sarah Hahn, director of Counseling Services at UC Davis, leads the larger Student Mental Health Initiative at UC Davis, which is supported by a three-year grant of more than $617,000 and is itself part of a UC systemwide mental health initiative. 

Funding for the UC Davis and systemwide initiatives is provided by the California Mental Health Services Authority — an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities — and is supported through the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63).

Development

According to Just in Case developer eReadia of Huntingtown, Md., UC Davis is among five University of California and nine other campuses to have the website tailored to their use. UC Davis is paying $3,500 for a two-year contract.

The website, which operates on all major smartphone platforms, was developed in partnership with NASPA, the national association for student affairs administrators in higher education.

“The time for mobile delivery of these critical resources is here,” says Kevin Kruger, president of the association. “Several recent high-profile cases have told us that support for a student undergoing crisis is critical on an ‘anywhere, anytime’ basis. But equally important is support for a friend or roommate who may be in a position to intervene and assist in the process of getting help.”   

Will DeLamater, co-founder and president of eReadia, says 18- to 24-year-olds represent one of the highest smartphone ownership groups among all age levels. “We think that using this ‘Just in Case’ mobile website to access support and guidance in case of a crisis makes great sense.”

Major initiative

The Student Mental Health initiative at UC Davis is providing:

  • online confidential mental-health screening and consultation for students;
  • presentations to students, faculty and staff on recognizing and responding to students in distress;
  • printed guides and resources to help faculty and staff assist students in need of mental health support;
  • enhancement of peer support and peer education programs;
  • a social marketing campaign to reduce the stigma of seeking mental health services; and
  • enhanced training to help staff of Student Health and Counseling Services improve prevention and treatment of mental health issues.

Mental health services

At UC Davis, Counseling Services offers confidential and free assessment, intervention and referral services for students, and consultation and crisis response for employees, students and parents. Through presentations and Web resources, the unit also offers guidance in identifying and responding to distressed or distressing students.

Student Health and Counseling Services provides urgent care for medical and mental health needs. Afterhours, students can receive counseling consultations at (530) 752-0871 or talk to an advice nurse at (530) 752-2300. 

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

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