Health and Counseling Center implements new after hours phone service

Students can speak with licensed counselors via ProtoCall

By Claire Desmarais | September 10, 2017 9:55pm

Students can now speak with mental health professionals even after the Health and Counseling Center closes at 4:30 p.m. The new program, ProtoCall, allows students in crisis to seek help when they need it.

Media Credit: Kayli Gribi / The Beacon

A new program named ProtoCall in the Health and Counseling Center will now make it possible to get mental health help after hours.

Before this year, students could only access mental health resources on campus between the normal Health and Counseling Center hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Now, ProtoCall allows for students seeking help to call counselors during times when the Health and Counseling Center is closed. 

If a student, faculty or staff member finds themselves in a mental health crisis, which includes breakups, concerning social media messages, sexual assault, suicidal or homicidal thoughts, and other crises, they can then call the Health and Counseling Center phone number at (503)-943-7134. From there, to reach ProtoCall, they should select option number three.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 1 in 5 adults suffer from a mental health disorder, and many more inevitably experience emotional distress during college years.

Eliot Altschul, Assistant Director of Counseling and Training at the Health and Counseling Center, explained that ProtoCall is an independent company operating locally in Portland, but contracts with colleges all across the United States. The University hired the company to work with the health center to provide support for students, faculty and staff during times of distress when there aren’t any mental health professionals on campus.

“We know that students’ lives don’t stop at 4:30 p.m.,” Alstchul said. “Students’ struggles don’t stop at 4:30 p.m. They happen most often in the evening and the weekends.”

Students who make use of the new service will be directed to a licensed and certified ProtoCall counselor, who will then ask for a name and callback information. Students are not required to give this information, but Altschul encourages them to do so. 

Altschul said that ProtoCall operates on the same confidentiality standards as the Health and Counseling Center, meaning any information given to them will not be shared with faculty, family or others unless the caller allows for them to. 

As is standard among mental health counselors, the only exception to total confidentiality is in the case of threatened harm to self or others.

Once the counselor picks up the call, the caller can speak about the problem happening. If the counselor believes the caller may be a harm to oneself or others, the appropriate action will take place. Altschul said that depending on the situation, Public Safety could be called and in some cases, Portland Police and an ambulance would also be called to ensure the safety of the caller.

If the individual requests further support, a consultation with the Health and Counseling Center or other local mental health resources can be arranged.

Individuals can seek help from ProtoCall counselors anytime between 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. to discuss any type of crisis. 

“The college campus and just the culture of college is a time of huge transition for people in their lives,” said senior Molly Thomas, the president of Active Minds at UP. 

Sarina Saturn, an assistant psychology professor and faculty advisor to Active Minds, explained students sometimes feel ashamed for having mental health issues, which prevents them from seeking help. She said that one of easiest ways to combat mental health issues is to talk to someone about them. 

Whether it is family, friends or the ProtoCall service line, Saturn said that finding help and talking about your problems is the first step to helping yourself. 

“It’s not a sign of sickness,” Saturn explained. “It’s really a sign of courage to go seek help.”