With more than physical well-being on their minds, the Counseling Center has created a program aimed to assist quarantined students looking for mental health support. 

“Living La Vida Lockdown” is a weekly online support group offered to all University of Rhode Island students in isolation due to COVID-19 exposure. Since the beginning of this semester, these meetings have brought students together to combat the common sense of seclusion felt when in quarantine.

Each meeting incorporates a communal discussion among students, as well as guidance from the meeting facilitators. Students are encouraged to talk about their experiences while in quarantine and lead open, honest conversations about the affects isolation has had on their well-being. 

According to Cory Clark, assistant director of the Counseling Center, the URI community has helped tremendously in promoting the program to quarantined students both on and off campus. 

“Any time someone tests positive or is instructed to go into quarantine, information is connected to the packet that is sent by email,” said Clark.

The Counseling Center has also collaborated with dining services, according to Clark, who hand out information about the program with additional food and supplies for students in isolation. Advertising assistance from dining services and health services has had a wide-reaching influence on the community. 

Clark believes that the greatest benefits to come from this program will emerge from student-led conversations which reinforce a forward-looking perspective.  

“The facilitators are more there to help the students communicate and share feelings, not necessarily direct them to say certain things,” Clark said. “It’s an open conversation, and at times some coping skills could be given. The hope is that students help each other.”

While the support group is entirely optional, the Counseling Center urges students on and off campus to attend the weekly meetings if they are in quarantine.

Dr. Michael Starkey, a licensed clinical psychologist at URI, was a pioneer in designing “Living La Vida Lockdown.” He, like Clark, recognizes how important it is for isolated students to create a network of positivity.

“One of the best ways to address an ongoing issue with isolation is to get a group of students together who are experiencing quarantine and have them talk about their experiences,” Starkey said. “This hopefully gives support from one another to reduce their loneliness or their isolation and make them feel like they’re a part of something.”

While the approximate number of attendees must remain confidential, the program has positively impacted both the group members and the remainder of the URI community. As reported by Starkey, students who attend are given an impressive outlet, while others in quarantine are reminded that the Counseling Center works diligently to support the student body. Even if they wish not to attend the group, students benefit by knowing that help is available. 

Starkey believes that this program will dismantle common stigmas associated with mental health assistance on campus, hoping that students can feel comfortable reaching out for help, no matter the magnitude of their concerns. 

“I think anybody can benefit from any kind of counseling or support through our center,” he said. “It’s a unique opportunity to really connect with people who are going through the same exact thing.”

Above all, “Living La Vida Lockdown” intends to reassure the URI community that they are not alone in their struggles while in isolation. Students are invited to reach out to the Counseling Center and attend this weekly meeting if in need of support during these challenging times.