There’s a Mental Health Crisis on College Campuses. We’d Like to Help.

The college experience is painted with bright-colored brushstrokes. It’s supposed to be a time of self-discovery, exploration, and experimentation. However, reality doesn’t always match the glossy ideal on the brochure. Students feel an immense pressure to ‘figure things out’—figure out their lives, their careers, and their place in an ever-changing world. On top of that, many have to shoulder sizable debt with no with no certainty of being able to repay it. For today’s students, a college degree no longer guarantees the economic security it once did. 

Simply put, college is a massive burden for a young person to bear.

While college has always been stressful, recent data suggests it’s becoming moreso—and the additional burden of mental illness doesn’t help. Compounding this problem, many mental health disorders don’t begin until the late teens or early 20s. So—not only are students living away from home for the first time—but they may be experiencing anxiety and depression for the very first time, too.

All over the country, colleges and universities are reporting an explosion of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide. According to a 2018 study from the American College Health Association, over 60 percent of university students reported “overwhelming anxiety” over the course of the year. More than 40 percent said they felt so depressed, they had difficulty going about daily life. 

While most colleges provide free, short-term counseling and care, the number of students who need mental healthcare far exceeds the resources of most counseling centers. What’s more, the demand for these services tends to be cyclical, with students increasing use toward the middle of the semester—which creates a bottleneck. 

Even more concerning? Some students avoid using university resources altogether out of fear of repercussion. Frequently, students are forced to take medical leave to avoid liability related to campus suicides. Some colleges have even expelled students who express suicidal ideation.  

While the cause of the spike is still undetermined, one thing is for sure: There is a substantial unmet need for mental health treatment among college students. 

How ZOOM+Care can help 

Limited options and long waits aren’t strictly a campus problem—they’re the norm for mental healthcare everywhere. At ZOOM+Care, we’re helping break down barriers by offering ultra-accessible, affordable visits to people in all walks of life.  

We don’t want anyone, student or not, to be stuck on a waiting list for weeks, unable to get help. That’s why we take a “no wrong door” approach to mental healthcare.

Getting assistance is as simple as scheduling a same-day ZOOM+Care visit directly from your phone. You can see a member of our mental health team, or try your hand at our daily care offerings. You can also use Chat Care to refill or manage medications—or to reach out for judgment-free advice and guidance. It’s all private, all on your terms, and all in your control.

If you or someone you know has a pressing mental health concern, we’re here. 

Schedule Now, or check out our Mental Health FAQs. 

3 Science-Backed Benefits of Getting Off Your Butt (And Into Nature)

ZOOM+Care water bottle. Outdoors health tips.

These days, we spend the majority of our waking hours sitting on our backsides, staring at screens. (Upwards of 11 hours per day, apparently.) But as it turns out, your Grandma was onto something with all those “fresh air will do you good” lectures. Research suggests that it’s important to spend time in nature, and doing so is beneficial — perhaps even essential — for our mental and physical health. 

As summer marches on in the Pacific Northwest, we’re examining the evidence that nature makes us healthier, happier people. Below, three science-backed reasons to get off your butt and go enjoy Mother Nature:  

Twenty minutes outdoors is all it takes to boost your physical and mental well-being. 

Immersing yourself in nature for two hours every week has significant health benefits, according to a study published in the Journal Scientific Reports

People who spent 120 minutes a week in “green spaces” reported a significant increase in both their mental and physical well-being, compared to those who didn’t go outdoors. (No need to head for the mountains, btw. An urban park counts as a green space.) The participants didn’t need to spend that time exercising, either—as long as they were outdoors, immersed in natured, they experienced a boost in their overall well-being. 

Even better, the two hours could be spread out throughout the week. Bottom line: As little as 20 minutes outdoors per day is all it takes to see health benefits. 

Other studies show that immersing yourself in natural surroundings can decrease cortisol levels—AKA the stress hormone—and lower systolic blood pressure and heart rate. 

Going outdoors can help ease anxiety and depression. 

According to recent research, exposure to green spaces can help ease anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.  

One study showed that strolls through the forest increased self-esteem while decreasing anxiety and negative emotions. In another, nature walks reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex—an area of the brain that’s active during rumination. (Rumination is what happens when you get down or anxious. It’s the process of continuously thinking the same thoughts, which tend to be sad and dark.) When people feel stressed or depressed, the prefrontal cortex malfunctions, and they may experience a continuous loop of negative thoughts.

In the study, researchers compared the brain activity of healthy people who walked for 90 minutes. Half the participants strolled through a natural setting with trees and shrubs, while the other half took a jaunt through an urban environment. The nature walkers showed decreases in cycling thoughts and activity in their prefrontal cortices, while the urban walkers did not. 

Nature may increase creativity, mental energy, and focus.

Nature is the most abundant source of beauty and inspiration available to us. Is it any surprise that it enhances our creativity? One study found that people who immersed themselves in nature for four days were able to boost their performance on a creative problem-solving test by a whopping 50%.

Similarly, nature might have a “restorative” effect on our attention spans and mental energy. In another, researchers examined participants’ ability to focus. They sent some people on a hike through nature, others on an urban stroll, and instructed the rest to relax. When everyone returned, the nature group outperformed the others on a proofreading task.  

Nature’s attention-restoring effect might even extend to kids with ADHD: children’s symptoms have been found to improve after a 20 walk through the park.

While the research is compelling, we hope these insights encourage you to go outside and experience the benefits of nature firsthand. Summer is waiting!

Looking for more summer reading? Discover five common skincare bummers, and how to solve them.

Here’s What Using ZOOM+Care for Mental Health Is Like

Q: Hey Zoom, What’s different about your approach to mental healthcare?

Have you ever sought help from a mental health professional? Think of what that experience was like: Did you have to get a referral from your primary care physician first? Did you call around to dozens of providers, only to be met with long wait times and limited availability? And when you finally did get in to see someone, were they even a good fit? Or, maybe you’re one of the million Americans who have never sought help for their mental health because there were too many obstacles in the way.

No doubt about it, there’s a mental healthcare accessibility problem in our country. Zoom wants to change that. As part of our mission to make mental health care easy and accessible, we offer on-demand visits with or without a referral. Getting help is as simple as scheduling a same-day ZOOM+Care visit, either virtually or in person, directly from your smartphone.

Our approach is a radical departure from the long wait times and barriers of traditional mental healthcare, but we know that change comes with questions. We’re here to answer yours with a little help from Zoom’s Chief Medical Officer—and board-certified psychiatrist—Dr. Erik Vanderlip. Read on to discover what it’s like to use Zoom for Mental Health.

First things first: How do I schedule a visit?

You don’t need a referral to use ZOOM+Care Mental Health. You can schedule a visit (either in person, or through VideoCare) directly from your phone.

However, Dr. Vanderlip says, “There is no wrong door for getting mental healthcare at Zoom. You can begin your mental health journey at any of our ZOOM+Care clinics as well. It’s up to you how you want to use Zoom—whether your concern is urgent or not, we have a solution for you.”

So I can go to any ZOOM+Care for mental health, too?

Yes! Like we said, there is no wrong door to mental healthcare at Zoom.

“Say you’re on an anti-anxiety medication like an SSRI, and you’ve been taking it for years,” Vanderlip explains. “If you just need a refill, you can see any Zoom provider. If we can’t address your issue there, we will recommend that you see a Mental Healthcare specialist—and that specialist will pick up where your ZOOM+Care provider left off.”

How does a mental health visit at ZOOM+Care differ from a traditional mental healthcare visit?

At Zoom, we enable patients to make their own decisions about their mental health.

In the words of Dr. Vanderlip, “We’re different because we believe that you can understand what’s happening to you, and if you don’t, we can help. Zoom is all about putting the power in your hands as an individual, and giving you the agency to decide how and when you want to see us—and who you want to see.”

Will I see the same provider every time?

The choice is yours.

“If you want to see the same Mental Health Specialist every time, you can.” Vanderlip explains. “We make that as easy as possible by allowing you to schedule appointments up to a month in advance. But if your provider gets sick or goes on vacation, then we have a whole team of mental health experts who can offer you insight and guidance.”

That’s interesting! What are some of the advantages of team-based healthcare?

It’s all part of making sure you get care soon as you need it—on demand.

“We have an intensive, team-based philosophy,” Vanderlip explains. “It’s part of how we provide better care. In traditional mental healthcare systems, you can call your doctor and leave them a message if you need anything. But in those systems, doctors burn out because they’re returning 50 phone calls a day. They never have enough time to focus on the person in front of them. When you see a ZOOM+Care provider, the focus is 100% on you and the time you’ve got together. Our providers are not distracted by something else—that’s one of the ways we provide really great healthcare—and it’s no different for mental health as well.”

What treatments does ZOOM+Care Mental Health offer?

That’s up to you, too.

“Our number one goal is to help you make sense of what’s happening to you, and then offer a range of treatment possibilities for you to consider. We help you understand the pros and cons of each treatment, then let you decide what sounds best,” Vanderlip says.

“If it’s therapy, we don’t do intensive psychotherapy within Zoom. However, we can connect you with a community partner that does. We can also direct you to great resources such as apps or books to personalize your approach to therapy. And in each visit, our team of fantastic mental health providers can infuse basic therapy principles to help you on your journey to recovery. If it’s medication, we can prescribe most medications. Our providers offer great advice and guidance on how to use medication to help you get over what you’re struggling with.”

So what you’re saying is, I’m in the driver’s seat?

Absolutely.

“We don’t want to be a big part of your life,” says Dr. Vanderlip. “We want to get you to a place where you feel better and functional, and then we want to get out of your hair. Our goal is to be as minimally invasive as possible—in many ways, we’re just your copilots in mental health. You’re calling the shots.”

Are there any treatments and medications you DON’T offer?

Yes. We don’t prescribe certain medications such as Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, or Ativan – commonly known as benzodiazepines. We’re also unable prescribe medication-assisted therapy for opioid use disorder such as methadone, buprenorphine or suboxone, and long-acting injectable antipsychotics like haloperidol decanoate and Abilify Maintena.

If you need stimulant medications like Adderall, Ritalin, amphetamine-dextroamphetamine, methylphenidate, Dexedrine, Vyvanse, we require an in-person or VideoCare visit with one of our Mental Health or Internal Medicine providers. We are unable to prescribe those medications via ChatCare.

Curious about what conditions we treat (and how we treat them)? Learn more about what to expect from a ZOOM+Care Mental Health visit.

Manic One Day, Meh the Next? It’s Not Just You.

Letters spelling mood on swings

Zoomers in Portland and Seattle report rapidly cycling moods that have nothing to do with their love of bikes.

Consider what went through your head the last time someone casually asked how you’re doing.

Did time slow down as you debated five answers that ranged from “Great!” to a philosophical reflection on suffering and the human condition? Take heart — you’re not the only one stuck in a mental spincycle.

At ZOOM+Care, our mental health team is seeing more people struggling with mood swings. “The first thing I’m hearing is that people feel irritable and annoyed at everyone and everything,”  says Erik Vanderlip, MD MPH, Psychiatrist and Primary Care Lead at ZOOM+Care. “When we dig further, there’s a pattern of feeling highly productive and energetic or restless — almost manic — for a few days or weeks, followed by a period of draining doubt and frustration.”

It sounds a little like bipolar disorder, but it’s not that severe. “What we’re learning in the mental health field is that every condition exists on a spectrum,” says Dr. Vanderlip. “Changing moods can become disruptive to your well-being, relationships, and/or job without reaching the level of the most severe forms of bipolar disorder.”

Think of mental health issues the same way you would a cough: If it’s just a tickle in your throat that has minimal impact on your day, it’s no big deal. If it persists for two weeks and it’s bugging you at home and work, consider seeing a doc.

WHAT TO ASK YOURSELF:

  • Are the ups and downs getting disruptive? If your mood is putting stress on your relationships or making it harder to get things done at work, it’s time for a mental health check-up.
  • Are you still as resilient as you were before? When problems come up on down days, do you feel as capable of handling them as in the past? Or are you so checked out, you’ve lost your resolve to fix things?
  • Are you worried about how much you worry? There are a lot of rational things to be worried about, but if anxiety is becoming its own issue, talk to a doc.

WAYS TO MANAGE MOOD SWINGS ON YOUR OWN:

  • Keep a journal to track mood changes and their triggers.
  • Stay active — take short walks a few times a day.
  • Avoid skipping meals.
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule.
  • Breathe deeply in stressful moments.
  • Lean on friends you trust.

WHERE TO GET HELP:

At your neighborhood ZOOM+Care clinic – Schedule a same-day, no-wait visit for mental health.  “At Zoom, we make it super easy to get treatment for any health issue, whether it’s for your ankle, lungs, or frontal lobe,” says Dr. Vanderlip.  

Schedule Now

Hey Zoom, Fidget Spinners Don’t Actually Help with Anxiety, Do They?

There’s no research on fidget spinners, but some psychiatrists are optimistic that the toy can help kids with autism avoid more disruptive behaviors. It may also reduce nervous habits like nail biting.

Like stress balls or worry stones, it’s really how you choose to use a fidget spinner that matters.

Continue reading “Hey Zoom, Fidget Spinners Don’t Actually Help with Anxiety, Do They?”

Hey Zoom, Is It OK to Suggest Someone Get Help for Anxiety or Depression?

It depends on where you’re coming from, says Erik Vanderlip, MD MPH, Psychiatrist and Zoom’s Mental Health Team Lead.

Here’s why you should give yourself a gut-check before bringing up potential anxiety or depression — and how to express your concern the right way.

Continue reading “Hey Zoom, Is It OK to Suggest Someone Get Help for Anxiety or Depression?”

Hey Zoom: Is Doing the Nude Bike Ride Good for My Mental Health?

YES! And we’re not just saying that because we plan to take pics and blackmail you when you run for office, start a company, or file for custody of your children.

“If you do the Nude Bike Ride the right way, it can boost your confidence and resilience,” says Psychiatrist and Zoom Mental Health Team Lead Erik Vanderlip, MD MPH.

Here’s how to turn June 24th into your own personal pep rally. Continue reading “Hey Zoom: Is Doing the Nude Bike Ride Good for My Mental Health?”

Health Hack: Hate Your Job? Say These 3 Things to Feel Better

Your boss is unbearable, the work is beneath you, the money sucks… we’re hearing a lot of people wallowing in work stress these days. You too?

To help you enjoy the rest of your life, we tracked down Erik Vanderlip, MD, Psychiatrist and Mental Health Team Lead at ZOOM+Care and got some advice on diffusing work stress at the end of the day.

Continue reading “Health Hack: Hate Your Job? Say These 3 Things to Feel Better”

Hey Zoom, I Keep Thinking About the MAX Attack and I’m Scared to Ride the Train. Is This Normal?

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Mental Health professionals, it’s that they’re not keen on labelling stuff “normal” or “not normal.” But when we cornered ZOOM+Care Psychiatrist Erik Vanderlip, MD, MPH, and insisted he answer your question, he said “Well, it isn’t abnormal.”

“When something happens in the world around us that’s traumatizing and awful, it can open old psychological wounds or create new ones,” says Dr. Vanderlip. “The closer and more directly we’re impacted, the deeper the wound and the slower it is to heal.”

Luckily, there are proven ways to overcome your anxiety.

Continue reading “Hey Zoom, I Keep Thinking About the MAX Attack and I’m Scared to Ride the Train. Is This Normal?”