AMS launches round-the-clock mental health hotline

This September the AMS launched Empower Me, a dial-in counselling service that aims to provide timely support for a wide variety of health issues on-demand, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. This service is available free of charge to students who are members of the AMS/GSS Student Health and Dental Plan.

“A key feature of the program is that it’s more accessible than traditional forms of mental health support,” said AMS VP Finance Alim Lakhiyalov. “It is offered in multiple languages and … provides broad support outside of normal clinic daytime operating hours.”

Lakhiyalov acknowledged existing mental health support lines but hopes that students will be informed of Empower Me directly, so that students do not need to “go searching” for others. He added that mental health is a salient topic on campus and “the more resources we have, the better.”

Empower Me is intended for immediate support and was not designed for long-term solutions. Students are permitted to call up to seven times on each of eight broad categories, which encompass depression and anxiety, substance abuse, and relationship problems. If the counsellors feel that an issue is serious or outside of their jurisdiction, they are equipped to refer the students to other providers who can support them.

While Lakhiyalov could not give an estimate of the current wait time, he said it is meant to be immediate.

For this first year, Empower Me is a “pilot program,” during which it will be assessed for its usage and value. The AMS negotiated for the introduction of this program with financial support from UBC and they currently share the cost fifty-fifty.

“We want to test the waters and understand if it brings value to the UBC community,” said Lakhiyalov.

A midpoint assessment will be made in January and the final decision about whether the program will move forward will come in May. If so, it would be added to the Health & Dental plan for an additional $4.41. The review process will include conversations with the health and dental committee as well as consultation with student groups who have used the program.