Demand for virtual mental health care among college students is surging, according to new data from telehealth company TimelyMD.

In an analysis of mental health visits through the TimelyCare app during the first half of the fall semester, mental health visits nearly quadrupled from August to October. Additionally, TimelyMD said in a press release that data suggests that “24/7 access to virtual care is more important to students than ever.”

In a press release, TimelyMD highlighted a few of its findings, including:

  • The top three reasons students seek care are anxiety, depression, and general stress. Providers report that acuity for suicidal ideation and intent, as well as eating disorders, are also increasing.
  • Four out of 10 visits occurred after regular counseling center or business hours.
  • Students without appointments waited just four minutes to speak with a provider (on-campus wait times often stretch into days or weeks).
  • During this time period, 92 percent of students sought scheduled therapeutic counseling or on-demand emotional support (TalkNow). The other eight percent opted for psychiatric care or health coaching.

“It is nice to have that virtual option where you can just go online and talk to somebody in the moment, like right then,” said Rita Rose, a senior psychology major at Coastal Carolina University, which rolled out TimelyCare access to all students in August. “It got me thinking more about just making sure I take care of myself and I reach out to somebody if I need help with physical or emotional health.”

Colleges and universities can partner with TimelyMD to help supplement their on-campus mental health offerings, which are often unable to meet student demand.

“TimelyCare serves as a 24/7 high-touch, virtual extension of campus resources, with a goal of improving student well-being, engagement, and retention,” said Luke Hejl, TimelyMD CEO and co-founder. “We have built a robust network of student-focused providers and a full-time student marketing team who ensure students get the help they need, whenever they need it. TimelyCare allows colleges and universities to break down barriers and address smoldering challenges to student well-being that the pandemic poured gasoline on and further ignited.”

Nicole Ruzek, director of counseling and psychological services at the University of Virginia, explained that virtual mental health services provided by a third party, such as TimelyMD, can meet students’ needs the way universities aren’t able to.

“One of the big advantages of this new service is that it will allow students to access a broad range of therapists,” said Ruzek. “So, if students are wanting to meet with a provider from a specific racial or religious background or with expertise in a certain area, they will be able to search for such providers and get connected. TimelyMD has let us know that if such providers are not available, if a student is looking for something very specific, they are open to feedback and they will try to hire more staff if they’re able to accommodate those needs.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs