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Stressed UC Davis students get mobile mental health help

As stressful exam week hits, Just in Case is a mobile-friendly Web site that directs students to appropriate resources both on campus and beyond.

The mobile-friendly Web site directs students to mental health resources.
Just in Case

It's finals week at UC Davis, and the campus is gearing up to help students who may find themselves in crisis mode with today's launch of a mobile-friendly Web site that directs them to the most appropriate resources on campus and beyond. The service could be life-saving, given suicide is reportedly the second-leading cause of death among college students.

Developer eReadia of Huntingtown, Md., says that the site -- called Just in Case -- is specifically tailored to the UC Davis community, though the company also maintains sister sites for about a dozen other campuses, four of which are part of the University of California system.

The mobile site, available on all major smartphone platforms, is intentionally simple. The main page consists of a menu of seven choices that range from "I'm worried about a friend" and "I might hurt myself" to "Getting Help at UC Davis" and "Additional campus resources." Each subpage directs students to lists of resources that may be most appropriate, such as 911, UC Davis police, or Student Health and Counseling Services.

Developed with NASPA, the national association for student affairs administrators in higher education, Just in Case is costing the school $3,500 over two years. Funding for the site and the school's larger Student Mental Health Initiative comes from a three-year grant of more than $617,000 via the California Mental Health Services Authority, which is in turn supported by the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63).

Zachary Ward, a staff psychologist with Counseling Services at UC Davis, said that while Just in Case can and should be used in crisis situations, a big part of the larger grant and initiative is prevention. "The No. 1 goal of that campaign is to increase a sense of community around mental health so that it's something people can talk about not only when they are in significant stress, but when someone wants support or increased self understanding," he said. "They know they have us here."

While the service is technically open to people beyond UC Davis, the counseling service only sees enrolled, registered students, and refers anyone else to other resources.

Ward added that while friends and family members can use the site to call in with concerns about a student, counselors don't do a lot of reaching out in order to respect student privacy, and instead offer suggestions on how to talk effectively with the student of concern.