Counseling center offers virtual support to students, parents

Posted at 4:50 PM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 17:55:18-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Help is on the way. Florida Gulf Coast University is offering virtual support to students in local school districts. It starts next month, and it’s free.

The university’s counseling center says they’re taking the first 250 people who sign up - whether you’re a student, a parent or someone in Southwest Florida who’s having a hard time processing the pandemic.

Jilian Sansone’s a graduate student in the counseling program. She and her classmates will be supporting locals in one-on-one video conferences starting the second week of May. It’s what they do in-person even when there’s no global crisis.

“Mental health is always important. It’s something that sometimes gets neglected,” said Sansone.

Dr. Russell Sabella who’s leading the k-12 virtual support initiative agreed that mental health services are essential no matter the circumstances. But, he said they’re needed a little more now.

“Right now it’s more important than ever. We’ve got parents and teachers, and elderly, and those - all of us of course in isolation who are experiencing some stress. Maybe our students can provide some encouragement,” he said.

Sabella made the purpose of the one-on-one meetings clear.

“This is not counseling. This is not crisis response. This is our first-year students providing free support, connectedness, and hope,” he said.

Sansone said she’s looking forward to providing that encouragement.

“I’m really excited for this opportunity during this difficult time that we’re all going through to be able to provide support to some members of our community,” she said.

If minors are signing up, their parent will have to give consent on video.

The program starts the second week of May and is geared towards helping K-12 students in local school districts, but services are open to the public. So, if you’re one of the first 250 people to sign up, Dr. Sabella said you will not be turned away.

Here’s the sign-up form.