Everyone knows how you’re supposed to deal with crushing depression: exercise, take a walk with a friend, talk about it. But the problem is, all of those require getting out of bed, and in the toughest times even that is sometimes too much to ask.
Which is why the idea spearheaded by Loyola University’s counseling center is such a great one: they’re using an online program intended to provide immediate, 24/7 help for students coping with trauma. The new and innovative program offers a host of benefits. It allows the school’s therapists to reach those who might not otherwise step foot into the counseling center — either because they’re too depressed to get out of bed, or because they’re embarrassed to admit they need help. Furthermore, it allows counselors to meet students in a place they’re eminently comfortable: the internet. “They’re communicating in different ways than we grew up with,” says Jason Parcover, who oversees the center’s outreach program. “So we have to evolve with them.”
When the program launched last November, it was an immediate hit. More than 1,500 students — some from other campuses — used the program in its first two months. The program offers privacy and instant access. What it doesn’t offer is an intimate one-on-one conversation. Instead, visitors to the site can watch videos of counselors offering tips and defining terms. When users indicate they’re suffering from a certain symptom, the program reassures them that their reaction is completely normal. In this way, REACT is less of a replacement for counseling than a useful stop-gap measure that’s available 24-7, no questions asked.