Student Health expands mental health programs

Pop-up tents pitched outside the Engemann Student Health Center
​​Student Health will host flu vaccination tents beginning Feb. 1 at USC Village and the Trojan Farmers Market in McCarthy Quad. (Sarah Cortina | Daily Trojan file photo)

Student Health is introducing updated mental health services in the wake of two back-to-back mass shootings that have shocked residents of California. 

A new 24/7 chat service is now available via Student Health as part of their partnership with Oasis. They have also introduced extra sessions of the “Let’s Talk” program in partnership with Asian Pacific American Student Services, Chief Student Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman said in a briefing with the Daily Trojan Tuesday morning.

“It has been a really difficult couple of days beginning with the events in Monterey Park and now news of a second number of shootings here in California. I think many people are personally affected … as well as just the sense of loss of safety and loss of security, and the fear that people are feeling,” Van Orman said. “We really want to encourage people to reach out, if they’re feeling that, to talk to peers and friends or to reach out for resources.”

Van Orman said the new Oasis chat service is not a “clinical” service, “but it’s great for people if they’re feeling just overwhelmed or stressed.”

Students are also encouraged to ask for help via Student Health’s 24/7 mental crisis line.

Beginning Feb. 1, Student Health will organize influenza shot pop-up tents across campus. These will take place through the end of February on Tuesdays at USC Village, or Wednesdays during the Trojan Farmers Market at McCarthy Quad. Van Orman encourages students who have not already done so to get their flu shots, stressing that flu is still a risk.

“It’s very early in the flu season, and last year we had flu as late as April,” Van Orman said. 

Currently, only about 30% of undergraduates and 40% of graduate students have received their flu shot. 

“People with influenza actually tend to be pretty sick,” Van Orman said. “Flu shots don’t 100% protect you from getting the flu, but they definitely mean lower levels of symptoms and more mild disease.”

Student Health continues to keep tabs on coronavirus cases, which Van Orman says are down from 100 cases last week to 86 cases this week. In light of the Food and Drug Administration’s outline for an annual coronavirus booster plan, Student Health will focus on tracking national health updates and creating clearly outlined guidelines for the USC community.

“We think that there will be some need for ongoing boosters, at least for individuals at higher risk and older,” Van Orman said. “I think what [the FDA is] trying to do is really kind of start to lay out a plan that will allow people to move this into their normal sense of regular preventative measures.”

Currently, the University requires students, faculty and staff to receive their primary vaccination series as well as one booster. 

“We’re going to be looking at our policy over the next couple of months,” Van Orman said. “Unless something changes, I think it’s unlikely that we’re going to have a policy that requires people to get all their boosters, but we might recommend that.”

Van Orman said that Student Health is prioritizing good public health information and ensuring that the entire USC community has access to the vaccines they need.

“I think the real take-home [message] with the FDA issue is really that the medical and public health community [needs] to start providing clear pathways for people to understand who should be boosted and when should you be boosted,” Van Orman said. “Because it’s really very confusing right now.”