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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M student-operated HelpLine lends a listening ear

A&M’s crisis intervention hotline service will dedicate the next week to promoting the idea of judgment-free listening and awareness of mental health issues.
HelpLine, part of Student Counseling Services, is a phone line staffed by peers and graduate students trained by SCS staff, and is available from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. on weekdays and 24-hours per day on weekends. The service aims to provide crisis intervention, referral, support and information about other SCS services and programs. HelpLine originated in January of 1995 when Kerry Hope, who studied suicide rates on campus, decided there should be a b        etter method to address the issue.
“At that time, students would show up at night to the health center and would call for a counselor and if they thought they needed one, we would do whatever we could to help somebody,” said Maggie Gartner, executive director of SCS. “It really wasn’t very efficient or effective, so Kerry came up with the idea to do HelpLine.”
Susan Vavra, Class of 1993 and HelpLine coordinator, said the first HelpLine Awareness Week took place in the spring of 2009 after a group of students pitched the idea to her.
“[The idea] has worked really well for us,” Vavra said. “What we did at the time is we bought hot pink T-shirts for the HelpLiners to wear to set them apart on campus, and we blanketed the campus with our flyers and sandwich boards and everything we could to remind the campus that we are here and available.”
Vavra said the main goal of HelpLine Awareness Week is to remind students that the HelpLine is available as a place for them to talk to someone without judgment.
“Some people, when we’re out doing MSC stuff for instance, and we say HelpLine is here, some people might think, ‘Oh I’ll never need that,’ but you never know when you’ll need a service like that,” Vavra said.
Vavra said HelpLiners typically see an increase in the number of calls during HelpLine Awareness week and the weeks following.
“Some of our callers never called us before and they call during HelpLine Awareness Week to check out what the service is about or how they can be a part of the program,” Vavra said.
The week also aims to raise awareness in the availability of the Student Counseling Services on campus, said Mary Ann Covey, associate director for Student Counseling Services.
“The SCS offers individual counseling, which is short term in nature, for someone who really wants to explore what’s going on with them — whether it be a breakup or if they’re depressed or notice certain patterns in their behavior,” Covey said.

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