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Mental health resources for online students

A person uses a smartphone to access Oregon State University's mental health resources online

3 tips to help manage stress and tap into Oregon State’s services

By Julie Cooper

The benefits of earning a college degree – including increased job opportunities, higher earnings over their lifetime and more robust professional networks – are not to be passed up.

But the path to a degree can be complicated. Many students who learn online with Oregon State University Ecampus face challenges as they juggle school, work and other life responsibilities. Those experiences can create pressure that weighs on their mental health and may impact their academic success.

Online resources you can access anywhere

No matter where Ecampus students live, Oregon State is committed to bridging the divide between the university’s resources and those who need to access them.

Browse support services

Knowing where to go for support is essential for a student’s holistic wellness, and without a physical campus location to visit, Oregon State’s online learners thankfully have a clear-cut path to important resources for stress management.

Here are three tips to prioritize wellness and find support while earning your degree from a distance.

Tip 1: Know your resources before you need them

Preventive measures are key when it comes to mental health, just as with physical health. When long-term stressors build up into an immediate emergency, it can become more challenging to identify effective strategies to address the problem.

“Really pay attention to your stress and what’s going on academically, socially and personally, and try not to wait until the last minute to ask for help,” says Marcey Bamba, the associate director of clinical services for OSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services. “See what your institution can offer you; understand the access that you have to resources here at Oregon State.”

Ecampus fisheries, wildlife, and conservation sciences advisor Susie Dunham suggests reaching out to an academic advisor or Ecampus student success coach at the first signs of difficulty as academic hardship can often amplify struggles with mental health or self-worth.

“It’s a matter of helping students break down what’s going on and asking them questions to pull out the key things that are getting in the way of school,” Dunham says.

In addition to connecting online students with mental health resources and acting as a pillar of support, advisors can also help students to identify course drop and withdrawal dates and other important information to save them time, money and emotional burden.

“Maybe they need to take a break or take a lighter load. Maybe they’re putting too much pressure on themselves. Sometimes they just need someone to give them permission to take a break and reassess,” Dunham says.

Tip 2: Explore several options to discover what works for you

Ecampus students living in Oregon can access face-to-face or limited distance counseling services through CAPS. Ecampus students who live outside of Oregon are unable to receive ongoing counseling through OSU due to state licensing laws, but any student in crisis can call CAPS and get help connecting with continuing mental health resources in their own area.

Not sure where to start?

These OSU mental health resources can guide you toward a balanced life as an online student:

However, Bamba reminds students that counseling is just one of countless valuable mental health care options. Try out the many online mental health resources available through Oregon State to find out what is helpful to address your unique needs.

“We have online self-help supports and wellness apps. You can work on modules on your own,” Bamba says. “Students don’t need to pay the health fee to access any of our online services. We will do our best to help them where they’re at.”

CAPS also sends a weekly mindfulness newsletter to share tips, guided meditations, mindfulness challenges and more.

Tip 3: Connect with a community, no matter where you are

While many online students live with others and are involved in their local communities, a student’s support system benefits greatly from the presence of peers who share and can empathize with their university experience.

Engage with classmates and instructors live whenever possible, both in and out of the classroom. Try using phone or video conferencing to complete group projects or check in with faculty.

You can also get involved with peers both on and off campus by joining a student community or organization and connecting with fellow classmates on the Ecampus Learning Community site in Canvas.

“My hope is that there is an opportunity for these students to have other ways to support each other, other than in the classroom setting. A sense of belonging is critical – research supports that,” says Bamba. “Create family, social supports around you in your area and virtually with your other classmates.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24/7.

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