ASU Counseling Services expands to include free 24/7 counseling

The new mental health counseling service, called Open Call and Open Chat, is available via call or text in six languages

ASU Counseling Services has expanded to ensure ASU students everywhere have access to free counseling 24 hours a day and seven days a week, with no limit to the number of times they can access the service. 

The new service began April 1 and is called Open Call and Open Chat and was made possible through a partnership between the University and My SSP, an outside organization that connects students with professionally trained counselors.

Students can receive confidential guidance via text or call and the service is available in six languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, French and Arabic.

"We've been hearing for a number of years the evolution of the needs of students," said Aaron Krasnow, associate vice president of ASU Counseling Services. "And one of those was kind of this on-demand experience for non-emergent or conversational aspects and also the access to counselors to wherever I am in the world."

Erin Trujillo, director of ASU Counseling Services, said she and Krasnow worked with students to give the new service a name that would not sound like a crisis line. 

"We wanted to make sure that we named a service that a student felt they could qualify for or really lower barriers for what would stop someone from calling," Trujillo said. "We've heard in the past that students don't always feel comfortable calling a crisis line if they're not in crisis."

Gregory Carnesi, a junior studying psychology and president of Active Minds, a student organization that aims to reduce stigma around mental health, described the Open Call and Open Chat service as a "warm line." 

"You have your crisis hotlines, but then you also have your warm line," Carnesi said. "If someone isn't in crisis, if someone is just having a bad day or is having a problem that isn't a full-blown crisis, they can call and there's someone there who will listen and really kind of help a person through that."

As a mental health advocate for his peers, Carnesi said he has heard many positive experiences, as well as some horror stories about ASU Counseling Services. Those stories included students having to wait two hours to see a counselor during walk-in appointments and others being turned down altogether because the waitlist was too long, Carnesi said. 

READ MORE: 'Voices of ASU' zine chronicles students' stories of ASU Counseling Services

"I'm not going to blame ASU Counseling Services," Carnesi said, "but I am going to kind of blame ASU as an institution for underfunding mental health initiatives such as ASU Counseling Services."

According to Carnesi, ASU has an approximate student-to-counselor ratio of 1,000-to-1; the recommended ratio is 40 students for every counselor, Carnesi said.

Open Call and Open Chat, Carnesi said, has the potential to alleviate some of the issues students experience as they look for mental health support through the University. 

"I think it's great," Carnesi said. "I think it addresses really kind of all of these problems, but I'm not going to call it a cure-all or I'm not going to say that everything is completely fixed."

Wyatt Calandro, a senior studying computer science, said he believes the no-cost aspect of the new service will allow more students to get the help they need.

"I was very worried about the cost and that played a factor in my willingness to actually go see the counseling services," Calandro said. "But knowing that it was free of charge to me took some of that stress off, allowed me to kind of get more used to talking to someone and getting checked up on and making sure that I was okay."

According to Krasnow, the sole existence of the 24/7 service could help students on its own. 

"It's called perceived social support ... If I know help is there, that reassures me, it brings my anxiety level down," Krasnow said. "That in and of itself is a powerful thing that we hope (students) will feel."

Students can access the Open Call and Open Chat service by calling 1-877-258-7429, creating a My SSP profile or downloading the My SSP app, which is available on the iOS and Android app stores. 

"We're hoping it has a major impact. We've always been there for students and this expands how we're there," Krasnow said. "I think the key is for people who are struggling to recognize A: their struggle and B: the resources in the environment, and that those things line up."


Reach the reporter at kkwilso5@asu.edu and follow @kaceywilson_ on Twitter. 

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