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Mental Health While Away from Campus

What can I do to prepare for being away from campus in regards to mental health?

If you know that mental health is a concern for you, our number one recommendation is to plan ahead. Consider the mental health support you will need well in advance of your move. Make an appointment with your mental health and/or medical care providers to talk about your plans for travel and/or relocation. (If you are traveling abroad, consider also consulting with Cornell Health Travel Services.)

Will you need professional services in your new location? Would it help to have copies of certain health records? Can your current providers or health insurer help you identify resources and/or referrals? Though Cornell Health does not have the capacity to provide telehealth services, some private therapists and commercial services do offer remote counseling. If you take prescription medications, make sure you have what you need before you go, as well as a plan for getting refills.

If I am away from campus, can I still use Cornell Health services?

Students who are not in the Ithaca area may call Cornell Health at 607-255-5155 to consult with a health care provider about a medical or mental health concern (24/7 for emergencies and urgent concerns). Even from afar, they can help you determine what care you need, and how and when to get it.

How can I make sure I have a support network when I am away from campus?

Connect with people who care about you. Talk before you go with friends, family, mentors, or advisers, and make specific plans for connecting on a regular basis. Do you have the apps you need on your phones and computers? If you’re going abroad, how will you navigate living in different time zones? Can you put into words how they can be helpful to you? Can you ask how you might be helpful to them?

It may be difficult now to know how you will connect with people in your new location, but it might help to start imagining it…and asking others to share experiences they have had.

What can I do to prepare myself mentally for in absentia status or travel?

Prioritize self-care. Shifting to in absentia status, pursuing research abroad, and traveling to or living in a new location can be disruptive. It’s important to make a list now of what you already know to be key strategies for taking care of yourself, and then use it in your new location: “Advice to Self.” Some of those strategies should be part of your routine (such as eating right, moving your body, getting enough sleep, socializing, engaging in mindfulness/meditation/prayer).

You also have a pretty good idea of what helps you when you are in crisis…or feel one coming on. Write them down so you can turn to them without thinking in times of need. You might consider attaching to your list some of the behaviors you know are “high risk” for you (e.g., too much or not enough alone time, screen time, work time, sleep time; self-medicating in one way or another to “manage” feelings; etc.).

How do I handle health insurance issues when away from campus?

Understand your health insurance before you need to use it. This will take some work. Go to your insurer’s website or talk with a member services representative to learn about how your plan works in the area you will be living/traveling.

If you are enrolled in Cornell’s Student Health Plan (SHP), your plan will work the same anywhere in the United States. If you’re studying outside the U.S., your copays and co-insurance won’t change, but you may have to pay for care at the time services are provided and submit a claim for reimbursement. SHP also includes 24/7 worldwide travel assistance whenever you’re more than 100 miles from your permanent address, in the U.S. or abroad. This is robust coverage (more than just insurance), so take the time to review it before you travel. 

Which resources should I be familiar with before leaving the U.S.?

If you will be out of the U.S., review Cornell’s health insurance requirements for students traveling abroad. Make sure you register with Cornell’s International Travel Registry before you go. In the event of an emergency, the Travel Registry helps university officials to reach you and provide assistance. Global Cornell provides information about health, safety, and other important considerations for all Cornellians planning international travel.