Aggies Seeking Relief From Fear, Stress And Anxiety Are Calling HelpLine
HelpLine, Texas A&M University’s after-hours mental health service, continues its tradition of selfless service this fall by keeping its lines open for students, many of whom call to talk about fear, stress and anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The student volunteers who staff HelpLine receive an average of 1,000 calls per academic year. In August, 15 students applied to be HelpLine volunteers. After 55 hours of interviews and training, five students were asked to join the HelpLine team of 30 volunteers.
HelpLine can be reached at 979-845-2700
4 p.m. – 8 a.m. Monday through Friday
24 hours on weekends
“Pandemics can be stressful,” said Susan Vavra, a counseling and development specialist with Texas A&M’s Counseling & Psychological Services and HelpLine director. “Fear and anxiety about a new infectious disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions. Public health actions, such as physical distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely. Add to that the stress of a rigorous academic schedule and you can understand why our service is so valuable to Texas A&M students.”
Since 1995, student volunteers with HelpLine have provided after-hours mental health services to their fellow students. All HelpLine volunteers receive ongoing supervision and continuing education. Since March 15, the group has operated with special COVID-19 safety precautions. All members wear face coverings, stay at least six feet from others, and continuously disinfect their space and equipment.
Caller concerns include academic worries, relationship issues, depression, suicide, anxiety and the impacts of COVID-19. When the phone rings, a HelpLine student volunteer answers, whether it’s a fellow student, a prospective student, former student, worried parents or community member.
“We’ve had calls from people who did a Google search for ‘helpline’ and discovered our number,” said Nicholas Murphy, a HelpLine volunteer and senior allied health major from Round Rock, Texas. “Regardless of who you are, if you call us during our operating hours, we will answer and do the best we can to help, whether it’s simply listening, giving you a place to vent and feel heard, or referring you to other resources. Our goal is to create a space for callers to share their thoughts with no judgment.”
Murphy, who has been a HelpLine volunteer for two and a half years, joined with the goal of serving his community in a positive and constructive way but found the most rewarding aspect was making genuine connections with people who are struggling and knowing he can actually make a difference in a person’s life who he doesn’t even know.
“By talking to fellow Aggies and others who are going through hardships, I have become more aware of serious health issues that may not always be discussed or understood,” Murphy said. “Working with HelpLine has made me feel more knowledgeable and connected to my community. In turn, I am more aware of my own well-being and of those around me.”
HelpLine does not operate during semester breaks, such as spring break or holidays.
Lindsey Novikoff, a senior from Cibolo, Texas, who is studying political science, says joining HelpLine two years ago is the best decision she has made at Texas A&M, and that it is going to allow her to take better care of herself and to listen to others when she attends law school after graduation.
“HelpLine has helped me to learn how to listen,” she said. “People take for granted the importance of simply listening and not giving advice, and that’s what we do for our callers. Because of my HelpLine experience and training, I am now comfortable discussing tough subjects like mental health, eating disorders and suicide. I am more understanding, nonjudgmental, and more forgiving of others and myself.”
Support the Houston A&M Mothers’ Club HelpLine Endowment with an online donation at give.am/HoustonMCHelpLine or contact Megan Pulliam, director of development for Student Affairs, at 979-458-1689 or firstname.lastname@example.org.