Virtual mental health can’t substitute face-to-face interactions


Ash Hallas | Special to The Union

On April 19, 2022, El Camino College announced plans to launch a program offering mental health services through the TimelyCare platform.

However, the launch of the accessible app also comes as labor negotiations concerning clinical psychologists on campus and potentially cutting their pay by more than half their hourly wage, which could result in a loss of staff.

According to a 2021 survey, college students gave their perspectives on telemental health, and out of 500 students, 93% preferred face-to-face counseling. 

With this in mind, promoting mental health services should focus on the clinical psychologists on-campus and one-on-one sessions.

A big part of the rise in mental-care apps is their convenience.

TimelyCare promises 24/7 around-the-clock care, reduced wait times, providers from diverse backgrounds and ultimately, peace of mind.

In partnership with The Foundation for California Community Colleges and TimelyMD, more than 150 campuses, including 20 California community colleges, are utilizing the health service. 

The campus assures in-person counseling sessions are still available for students but has an average waitlist of 10 days. Hence, the ability to avoid the long wait seems appealing. 

However, experiences from other college students on the lack of care they experienced from the app have started to surface.

Wake Forest University staff columnist Isabella Mason wrote about her experience with TimelyCare and pointed out her disappointment with its lack of accessibility and effectiveness. 

She also notes the matter of confidentiality, especially for those who might use the app but do not have access to privacy (i.e., roommates).

Even with its faults, there is no denying TimelyCare and other mental health online resources can help students who need immediate help.

Instead of replacing it with in-person counseling, it can aid students on a waitlist for their selected time slots.

The campus offers various mental health resources, including consultations, referrals and crisis assessments.

The Active Minds Club is a prominent one, which advocates changing the conversation about mental health and de-stigmatizing mental illness.

Throughout the semester, they have had multiple events on campus, including therapy dogs and Warrior Wellness Wednesday. 

TimelyCare comes with its faults, but it can also benefit some students. However, this editorial board believes there is nothing like the connection one can have with in-person counseling, and clinical psychologists deserve the proper compensation for their work to ensure that.