FHSU Launches Virtual Mental Health Platform

Tiger Thrive, a virtual mental health platform was launched this spring by Fort Hays State University’s counseling and support services center, the Kelly Center.

Tiger Thrive offers all current FHSU students, faculty, and staff therapeutic content on various mental health issues via Blackboard, a Web-based course-management system. Tiger Thrive is designed to provide FHSU students access to a range of self-paced online courses that teach strategies to help improve their mental health and deal with the stresses of college.

The content for the virtual platform was developed by Sadie Spurlock, a counselor at the Kelly Center, and Will Stutterheim, the center’s assistant director. It includes resources that walk viewers through concerns such as anxiety, depression, stress management, sleep habits, eating disorders, and more.

Spurlock received her master’s in Advanced Education Programs with an emphasis in clinical mental health counseling and was hired as coordinator of the SAMHSA grant, which the Kelly Center received in January 2020. The three-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) help provide the Kelly Center funding for suicide prevention programming on campus and in the community.

Spurlock was working part-time at the Kelly Center at the time and said the grant funding gave her the perfect opportunity to work on the virtual program. She explained that the purpose of the program is threefold:

1) To give virtual students the opportunity to view pre-recorded videos since licensure restrictions allow the center to provide therapy sessions for Kansas residents only,

2) To offer a more comfortable setting for people who might be uncomfortable with the thought of traditional therapy sessions, and

3) To give current clients something to reinforce what they are hearing in sessions at the Kelly Center.

“We want to give people something similar to the Kelly Center experience,” she said, “and make it more personal to Fort Hays State.”

More than 6,500 of FHSU’s total enrollment of 15,033 are online students, and those students can access Tiger Thrive from anywhere at any time. Spurlock said that while the Kelly Center cannot conduct therapy sessions with out-of-state students, counselors are available to help callers search for services in their area.

“They can still call us, and we will help them find someone in their vicinity where they can go for therapy,” she said. “We want our virtual students to feel a part of Fort Hays State, and that includes the counseling experience.”

Spurlock said that this type of service is especially important in recent years. The need for counseling has grown consistently over the past six years and was up 200 sessions at the Kelly Center from a record-breaking year in 2020 – to 4,361 sessions by the end of May 2021.

Spurlock pointed out that Tiger Thrive is not intended to replace traditional therapy.

“We hope this can be a first step for our virtual students who might be thinking about seeking therapy,” she said. “If you are experiencing anxiety or depression, here is a first step. These resources on Blackboard are just one click away.”

For more information about Tiger Thrive, visit www.fhsu.edu/kellycenter/personal/online-resources. Tiger Thrive can be found via the Assist Tab on the left menu when logging into Blackboard.