The University of Iowa now has a 24-hour Mental Health Support Line for students.
Announced by the UI Division of Student Life on Oct. 7, the new support service comes after a recent partnership with CommUnity Crisis Services, which has provided multiple crisis services for the Iowa City area since 1970. This service, however, will be only for UI students, a first for CommUnity. It will also be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“What we know is that crisis doesn’t necessarily wait on the clock,” said Barry Schreier, director of the University Counseling Service. “It’s 3:00 in the morning or 2:00 in the afternoon, there always will be this opportunity for folks to reach out.”
Discussion about the hotline originally started in early summer and it was almost fully completed by the end of the summer, Schreier said. The program is “blessed” to be able to have the hotline paired with a local company in the CommUnity Crisis Center, he said.
The partnership between CommUnity Crisis Services and the UI was formed as a response to a recommendation from the Reimagining Campus Safety Action Committee to increase investments in student mental health and basic needs support.
“Providing timely and appropriate care to students who are experiencing any kind of distress is crucial to their wellbeing. CommUnity has been an essential resource to our community and a valued UI partner for many years. Having dedicated service for University of Iowa students will help fill a critical need on our campus,” Dean of Students Angie Reams said in a statement on the UI Division of Student Life website.
The 24/7 access to care allows students to obtain care and support on their schedule and in a way that best meets their needs without having to wait for an office to open or for an available appointment, Reams wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan.
In the 2021 National College Health Assessment data, the undergraduate student summary revealed:
45.3 percent of UI undergraduate students named stress as an academic impediment
37.3 percent of UI undergraduate students named anxiety as an academic impediment
28 percent of UI undergraduate students named depression as an academic impediment
78.8 percent of UI undergraduate students reported a high or moderate stress level in the last year
29.1 percent of UI undergraduate students reported have two or more mental health conditions
50.1 percent of UI undergraduate students reported using psychological or mental health services in their lifetime, with 33.1 percent reporting that they had used them in the last 12 months. Of the students who have reported using services in the last 12 months, 43.1 percent reported receiving on campus service.
When a student contacts the UI Support and Crisis Line, multiple options are offered to them to receive help based on their comfort levels and needs at that moment. Options include talking through the student’s concerns on the phone with a crisis counselor from the CommUnity Crisis Services.
Students can also receive in-person support from the Johnson County Mobile Crisis Unit, which works to deescalate the student concerns, assess the need for referrals to other services, reduce unnecessary hospitalizations, or help admit the client to a crisis stabilization bed, if needed. The Johnson County Mobile Crisis Unit is only dispatched if the student requests in-person support or if it is warranted based on the situation at hand.
Students also have the option to receive transportation to the Iowa City GuideLink Center or to a local hospital, if necessary.
The name UI Crisis and Support Line was picked to encourage all students to use the line, Schreier said.
“We very specifically picked language like crisis and support because, maybe I’m not in crisis, just needing some support around something,” Schreier said. “We don’t want to discourage students from using it because they don’t think they’re in a crisis.”
The line is funded by the UI Division of Student Life as well as the student mental health fee, which is mandatory and automatically included in each student’s tuition. The cost will be based on the number of calls, chats, and texts in accordance with use each month and is estimated at approximately $72,000 annually, Reams wrote in an email to the DI.
Overall, the hotline is just one more way for students to maintain their mental health, Schreier said.
“Anything that impacts one’s wellbeing, impacts one’s mental health,” Schreier said. “Having this additional 24/7 crisis and support line is just one more contribution to helping students maintain their wellbeing.”
The services are live and can be reached through phone calls and text messages at 844-461-5420 or through online chat at www.mentalhealth.uiowa.edu. The line is staffed by CommUnity Crisis Staff volunteers.