Chapel Hill, NC–The University of North Carolina System announces the launch of a new service that gives students at every constituent institution access to licensed mental health support, including after-hours when campus counseling centers are closed.

ProtoCall Services provides students telephonic access to crisis assessment and intervention support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. This service is designed to enhance the already robust face-to-face support students can find on every UNC System campus.

The challenges of COVID-19 have led to an increased demand for campus counseling services. With the help of ProtoCall Services, on-call counselors at the institutions will have backup support to help handle after-hour call volume, and the counseling centers will be able to provide staff with much needed downtime for recuperation and training.   

The service also gives campus counseling centers crucial flexibility to schedule staff-wide meetings and to respond to campus-wide crisis events without disrupting student access to counseling services.

With this service, anytime a UNC System student calls the counseling center for help, someone will pick up the phone. If a student is facing an extreme crisis, with thoughts of self-harm, the licensed ProtoCall counselor will be ready to contact campus police and the counselor on call. By facilitating rapid interventions during the off hours, ProtoCall will help students access emergency medical assistance.

Prior to this agreement, 10 of the larger UNC System institutions, serving more than 180,000 students, paid for individual contracts with ProtoCall. Several smaller institutions, however, did not have the resources to pay for the service. In 2019, ProtoCall saw a total monthly average of 245 calls from the ten subscribing institutions. With the advent of COVID-19, these services will be in even greater demand. Now, with this new contract leveraging the purchasing power of the entire System in place, every student will have access to a broad safety net of support, whenever they need it.

“College students across the country were already coping with higher rates of anxiety and depression,” said Peter Hans, president of the UNC System. “This very challenging semester has only added to those pressures, and we want to do everything in our power to make sure students have the support they need.”