For a few hours each evening, volunteers at CU are available to chat with students about mental and emotional problems that many people struggle with during college.
CU HelpLine is a free, student-run service that takes calls and instant messages from anyone on campus who need someone to talk to confidentially.
Junior psychology major Ben Price, co-director of the helpline, said the conversations between volunteers and students can be about multiple issues.
“If I had to guess, I would say we get a lot of relationship calls dealing with friends or boyfriends/girlfriends, and we also get a lot of stress calls related to school since most of our callers are students,” Price said. “We have received a high volume of depression and suicide calls as well.”
Many people who call in don’t really know what the service is for. Price said some have called for bus schedules and directions in Boulder.
“We get them the information, explain that we’re here to talk about anything and then ask them if they want to talk about what’s on their mind,” Price said. “Once they realize they can talk about their stress or whatever, they just open up and really enjoy getting things off of their chest,” he said.
Senior psychology major Andrew Zajicek, the other co-director of the student resource, said that the organization is using some of its annual $10,000 budget on marketing to familiarize the students with the helpline.
“We try to go to freshman orientation fairs, set up tables in the UMC, and update our Facebook page every day,” Zajicek said, adding that CU HelpLine also purchased advertisements in university Buff Buses.
The co-directors estimate that the number of calls the organization has received this semester have gone up compared to in the past. However, they lack data to be sure.
“In all honesty, based on the increased volume we have already had this semester, it would be safe to estimate no less than 80 calls and/or chats for this semester at this time,” Price said.
Zajicek said about three or four calls and chats come in each week.
About half of the call center’s funding pays for affiliation with the university and oversight from Wardenburg Health Center’s Psychological Health and Psychiatry. Being connected with the psychological and psychiatry office allows CU HelpLine to get feedback from graduate student interns when questions arise.
The rest of the budget is spent on operational expenses including supplies and training manuals, Zajicek said.
Including the co-directors, there are currently a total of 37 people working for the non-profit, according to Zajicek. The volunteers come from a variety of majors, commit to at least two semesters at the helpline and are trained before they take any calls.
The volunteers, all students, are not professional therapists and are directed to avoid giving advice.
Senior international affairs and political science major Savannah Pullin said she listened more than talked when she worked for CU HelpLine.
“Call-takers are trained to take calls regarding whatever. They want to do their best to understand [the caller’s] situation,” Pullin said.
Pullin left the helpline last spring semester. She recommends the resource for all CU students.
CU HelpLine volunteers are available Sunday through Thursday from 7 p.m.-12 a.m. or Friday and Saturday from 9 p.m.-2 a.m. at 303-492-1000, or via the organization’s website.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Yuchen Wu at Yuchen1107@gmail.com, twitter/yuchen1107.