Penn State World Campus is expanding its mental health and well-being services for students with the hiring of a second mental health case manager and adoption of Ginger, a behavioral health platform that offers services such as personalized coaching through text messaging and virtual therapy. 

A headshort of Michelle Henry standing on a porch overlooking a snowy field

Michelle Henry joined Penn State World Campus in January after 31 years working with Centre County Mental Health, where she was director of mental health services for the past 12 years.

Henry said she is excited to be starting a new phase of her career working with students and Penn State World Campus Student Affairs. Henry and fellow case manager Katie Marshall meet virtually with World Campus students to figure out what kinds of mental health and well-being services they might need or benefit from, and then help connect them with those services and resources in the communities where they live.

Like everyone else, World Campus students have been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and are seeking support, Henry said.

“Who hasn’t been impacted?” she asked. “Anybody in college going through that, it’s a huge change of life for sure.”

A team of mental health professionals

Students can schedule an appointment with Marshall or Henry, who will meet with the student to identify what they are looking for and start connecting them with resources. 

Henry said the initial meetings take place very quickly.

“It’s not an immediate fix, but a lot of times, it’s an immediate step in the right direction.”

If a student needs a mental health provider, Marshall and Henry can help them narrow down the field of choices.

They will meet with students again as needed and check whether the student was able to follow through with recommended services or resources.

Ginger behavioral health coaching

Another addition to Penn State World Campus’ mental health and well-being support system this year is the adoption of Ginger, a text-based behavioral health platform that is also used on the University Park campus. Students referred to Ginger receive a free three-month subscription paid for by World Campus Student Affairs that includes 24/7 access to live coaches. 

Coaching can support students with a variety of goals, including managing stress and anxiety, having difficult conversations, setting healthy boundaries, increasing coping skills, dealing with life changes, handling grief, building or breaking habits, maintaining relationships, improving communication skills, or setting academic, personal, or professional goals, Marshall said.

Students interested in behavioral health coaching through Ginger should visit the Penn State World Campus Mental Health and Well-Being Services web page and request an appointment with a case manager to get the process started. The case manager will review Ginger coaching criteria as well as identify additional options available for students based on their needs and goals. Students are typically able to get connected to a coach within a few days of being referred. Students whose needs rise beyond behavioral health coaching can work with Ginger to determine if they are eligible for short-term therapy. 

Ashley Adams, the senior director of Penn State World Campus Student Affairs, said robust mental health case management is vital to serving a diverse and geographically dispersed student body.

“We recognized the need to expand our services to help our students in challenging times, and we are excited to be able to offer this increased level of support,” Adams said. “We want to make sure our students have the resources they need to be successful personally and academically.”

Henry said the team also plans to expand its existing offerings of mental health and wellness programming.

Visit the Penn State World Campus student website for more information about mental health and well-being services or to schedule a consultation.