By Jade Francis

“This is the best news that ever happened to Cape Cod Community College,” Dr. Maura Weir said when discussing a new resource available to all students. “So, any student who has a ‘capecod.edu’ email address can call directly this phone number (below) and they can talk to a licensed clinician and set up their own appointments.”

On Feb. 3, the Student Wellness Office sent out an email to all students introducing a new program called ReachOut@4Cs. This new resource offers a hotline available 24 hours, seven days a week, for any student struggling and in need of guidance, in this case from a licensed clinician. To obtain this support system, the college contracted with Christie Campus Health. Along with the mental health hotline, Christie Campus Health is pairing with iHope Network to host a COVID-19 support group available to all 4C’s students at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.

“The first five sessions are free, and they give you five sessions per topic,” Weir said. “So, say a student called and they wanted to talk about their anxiety, they’ll do that for five sessions, and then if they’re finished with that subject, they don’t need to talk to anyone anymore, but if there was something else they wanted to bring up, add another five sessions.”

Weir said the beauty of this new benefit is students don’t have to wait long to meet with a mental health professional. No issue is invalid, and Weir encouraged students to take advantage of the opportunity.

Katie Pecora is the licensed clinician who leads the Covid support groups on Wednesday evenings. She graduated from James Madison University in 2003, followed by receiving her

master’s degree in social work from Boston College in 2005. She is coming up on 16 years of working as a clinical social worker. As well as running these groups, she also does one on one sessions with clients. Sessions of this support group were first offered in the spring of 2020 for some colleges. In her group session, Pecora emphasizes the ‘Vegas rule’: what is said in the group stays in the group for confidentiality reasons. Making sure people feel it is a safe and welcome environment is important, she said.

“The people at iHope felt that we were just uniquely prepared to offer services,” Pecora said, “A lot of other agencies have to scramble to adapt to everything being virtual—we already do that so we felt like we could see what else we could offer to help people during this time.” Pecora stressed that individuals who join this group are not obligated to share anything if they wish to listen. The goal of the meetings is to provide comfort and help people feel less alone in such an isolated time.

“The group is about dealing with the stress around COVID-19, but that could mean a lot of different things,” Pecora said. “It doesn’t mean that there are subjects that are off limits per se, it could be about whatever is important to people, and seems to be a good topic of conversation.”

The hotline for mental health help and the COVID-19 support group is 833-434-1217.