Starting this semester, the College of William and Mary announced new partnerships with mental health resources WeBe and TimelyCare as a means to expand mental health services and promote wellbeing across campus.
TimelyCare is a free, on-demand teletherapy service available at all times to the student body. The platform is meant to complement the counseling and psychiatry services already available at the College’s Counseling Center.
The College also launched a pilot program with WeBe, a health promotion app that allows students to track their wellness, check in on friends and access resources to maintain healthy living. This is the first university that the app has partnered with, and it has been working closely with administration and students to develop unique features for the College community.
These partnerships come after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which increased demand for mental health services, especially online resources. They join and enhance existing resources available through the Student Health Center focused on helping students at all stages of their wellness journey.
Associate Vice President for Health and Wellness and Director of the Center for Mindfulness and Authentic Excellence Dr. Kelly Crace spoke about TimelyCare and WeBe with The Flat Hat following his presentation on wellness at the February Board of Visitors meeting.
“Students can come in with what is most important to them and engage in the modality that is most important for them, that they’re likely to be more open, more vulnerable and engaged in the work,” Crace said.
Students seeking non-emergency sessions at the Counseling Center often face long wait times at the College’s Counseling Center. The introduction of TimelyCare allows them the option to speak with a mental health professional online while waiting for an appointment at the Counseling Center.
“It provides us the opportunity to work more with students at a deeper level, quicker, and be able to work with them in a way that most fits their needs,” Crace said.
While TimelyCare is a resource for mental health intervention and treatment, WeBe focuses more on health promotion as a way of fostering resilience against crises.
“WeBe is kind of that preventative health promotion, keeping you tuned in to what’s well, tuned into what’s healthy for me, keeping me intentional about it, because the noise of our relentless world is going to pull you away from taking care of yourself,” Crace said.
Chief Executive Officer Dr. Barbara Van Dehlen and Chief Clinical and Science Officer Dr. Randy Phelps co-founded WeBe alongside Chief Operating Officer Michael Akinyele. The app allows users to track their own day-to-day wellbeing as well as keep up with the wellbeing of their trusted family and friends by creating and joining affinity groups or “Pods.”
“Our goal is to democratize wellbeing, is to give people tools, resources and each other,” Van Dehlen said. “The value to the population here is that: to give them more opportunity to learn what works for them, to share that with their broader community and the community that they’re connected to outside of William and Mary, so that they not only get their education here, but also get real tangible experience and tools that they can take with them the rest of their life to support their well-being.”
Since the College is the first campus to partner with WeBe, developers are working alongside the administration and students to create unique features for the College. These include the creation of three specific affinity groups for the greater College community: student veterans and student athletes. Students within these groups will then have access to specific resources that address their needs.
“This is a way to try to positively impact the community at William and Mary of ‘let’s all take care of each other and ourselves’ and to capitalize on that because it’s such a powerful input,” Phelps said.
Wellness Ambassador Max Beers ’24 echoed the importance of students taking care of themselves and of each other through an app such as WeBe.
“It takes, I think, a culture at William and Mary where students will always be sure to check in on how their friends are doing, but that doesn’t mean that they’re checking in on themselves,” Beers said. “So, it kind of ingratiates those two where you can check in on your friends and your friends can also hold you accountable.”
Beers also commented on the uniqueness of WeBe as a social media app that is solely focused on health promotion instead of doom scrolling or venting as a means of raising engagement.
“WeBe does a really good job of trying to foster an environment where it’s real people talking about real life, real struggles that they’re having, how they’re trying to deal with it,” Beers said. “And it’s trying to do it in a productive way, which is not something that William and Mary had, but it’s also not something that just the United States in general or, you know, 20-year-olds, college age kids had.”
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing shortages in the mental health workforce. TimelyCare and WeBe serve to help meet demands through safe and accessible online platforms. Mental health professionals at TimelyCare undergo a strict onboarding process and data from WeBe is only collected at an aggregate level to protect students’ individual privacy.
Crace shared his goals for the future of partnerships such as these.
“My hope would be eventually we can offer these services not only for students, but for our faculty and staff, because our faculty staff are just as stressed as our students,” Crace said. “I would love for this to be more of a community service.”
WeBe is available for free at the Apple Store and Google Play and TimelyCare is available at timelycare.com/wm or downloadable as an app. A statewide summit on youth mental health is set to be hosted by the College on March 29, 2023.