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Penn has taken a step forward in addressing the decentralization of student mental heath resources with the creation of a 24/7 hotline, which was launched on Monday.

The HELP Line, which will be administered by the Division of Public Safety, will be a resource for students, staff and faculty who are seeking time sensitive help for mental health issues.

DPS dispatchers who have been trained by Counseling and Psychological Services staff will answer calls made to the HELP Line and connect students in need with professional counselors from CAPS. Previously, students would have to call different numbers, depending on whether they were calling CAPS during business hours or after hours.

With the new HELP Line, a trained dispatcher will be able to pick up a call any time and talk to a student or staff member on the phone while another dispatcher reaches out to a clinician. If the dispatcher senses that the student might be in danger, he can send a police officer to the student’s location.

Professor Rebecca Bushnell, who co-chairs the mental health task force, said that the new central hotline will be beneficial because many Penn students and staff don’t know what number to call when feeling troubled.

“We’ve talked to many people since last spring, including parents, students, staff, faculty members and many of them just didn’t know,” Bushnell said. “This is how we concluded that a new hotline needs to be set up.”

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Photo By Courtesy of Bhaskar Peddhapati/Creative Commons (cropped for web)

The HELP Line will be a resource anyone seeking time-sensitive help for mental health issues.

Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush emphasized that the HELP Line is not a substitute for CAPS, but an extension of its service. “This number is just one more tool for people to know where to call,” she said. “It’s a number that’s easy to remember.”

CAPS Director Bill Alexander, who trained the HELP Line dispatchers, said the HELP Line will be a great central resource for students. “It helps them get to the right place when they don’t know where to call,” he said.

Apart from the HELP Line and CAPS’ regular number, students can also call the Reach-A-Peer Helpline for help with mental health. President of RAPline Antonia Diener said that the major difference between RAPline and the HELP Line is that the RAPline is a peer help line. “When you call RAPline, you will talk to a fellow Penn student instead of a professional counselor. We will listen to you and try our best to help you,” she said.

The creation of the HELP Line stems from the work of the mental health task force, which was commissioned in February after several student suicides. The task force is expected to issue its full recommendations early next semester.

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