Georgia Southern Delivers Top-Tier Mental Health During the Pandemic

How the Counseling Center modified services to Meet Students’ Needs


Rebecca Munday

Slide 14 from President Marrero’s Fall 2021 State of the University address about the University’s Mental Health Response during the 2020-21 academic year

Georgia Southern University counseling centers experienced three times the crisis calls due to suicidal intent or ideation in the 2020-21 academic year.

The Counseling Center responded to this increase by redesigning how they deliver services to students, increasing students’ ability to access those services by 26% and distributing H.E.R.O Folders.

H.E.R.O Folder overview (Rebecca Munday)

The H.E.R.O Folders, Helping Eagles Recognize Distress and Offer Support, contains information on how to identify different distressed individuals and what students should do when they find themselves in a variety of distressing situations. Contact information for many campus departments that can help in those situations is also in the folder.

Additionally, the Counseling Center cut student wait time in half and increased same day access to counselors.

“Any student in crisis can speak to a counselor immediately 24/7. Regardless of the day or time, students can call the center. During business hours they should tell front desk [sic] they have an emergency and they will be transferred to a counselor immediately. After hours, the recorded message will instruct them to select ‘2’ for immediate transfer to a counselor,” Jodi Caldwell, the executive director of the Counseling Center, said.

For students seeking same-day counseling, one concern is not prioritized over another concern, so all students have the same likelihood of being seen the same day they call.

If the Counseling Center runs out of appointment slots, students will be asked if they are calling for an emergency or if they could wait until the next day.

Students with emergent needs will be transferred to the crisis counselor. Students with non-emergent needs will be asked to call back the following day.

“There is an excellent likelihood that any student wanting a same-day session would receive one the same day,” Caldwell said. “So far, we have had the capacity to accommodate 100% of the students who have requested same day. [sic]”

The Counseling Center is currently scheduling same week intake appointments for students who want to start continual individual counseling. As demand increases, the wait time may increase.

Students, who want to learn more about the services the Counseling Center offers and how they can access them, should visit the Counseling Center’s website or call them at 912-344-2529 for the Armstrong Counseling Center, which is located at 7000 Compass Point Annex.

The door to the Counseling Center on the Armstrong campus located at 7000 Compass Point Annex. (Rebecca Munday)

Because of the quality of care and the changes the Counseling Center made, the Georgia Southern Counseling Center reduced symptoms of “symptoms/psychological distress” better than 93.3 percent of university counseling centers, according to a Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH) study done in the 2020-21 academic year with clients of university counseling centers using the Counseling Center Assessment of Psychological Symptoms (CCAPS).