UT has a duty to expand mental health care

Emily Severe

Heavy budget cuts to state universities pose a threat to the expansion of vital campus resources such as the Counseling and Mental Health Center. The prevalence of mental illness among college students continues to increase as limited access to adequate funding poses a growing risk to campus health and security.

A steadily increasing number of students are seeking counseling for mental health with the majority attending individual and group sessions for anxiety or depression. The CMHC works to meet student needs by providing group and short-term individual counseling sessions; however the center is often overworked, overbooked, and low on funding.

The duty of the university is to provide an environment that is conducive to learning and growth; however, the University of Texas cannot do so if it does not shift its focus in full force to providing accessible mental health care.

Service fees, which doubled for individual counseling and tripled for psychiatric appointments in 2015, stand in the way of treatment for a population at significant risk for suicide and depression. This isn’t the only obstacle standing in the way: wait times often range from weeks to months.  

"Can you imagine? Within those couple of weeks something tragic could happen,” Vivianne Tu, management and BHP sophomore and member of a student-led mental health focus group, said about access to CMHC resources. Though the CMHC provides many unique group sessions, access to trained peer mentors, and self-help resources like MindBody Labs, the demand for critical access to assistance for individuals is not being met.

Limited access isn’t the fault of the CMHC, who extended their hours in the wake of the tragedy the Longhorn community experienced at the end of the Spring semester. The University must allocate resources toward the expansion of the CMHC to meet student’s needs — not solely to respond to May’s mass stabbing on campus but to act as a means of prevention. The burden of mental illness does not simply fall on the affected individual, rather, it takes a toll on our collective sense of safety and well-being.

"If someone doesn’t know how to address mental health issues that can bring about terrible tragedies like we saw this year and last year,” Tu said. “We need to see more conversation. This should be a paramount issue at all campuses.”

With institutions like the Mayo Clinic expanding the amount of information readily accessible to parents on the dangers of depression in college students and public universities receiving recognition for their approach to care, there is no excuse for UT to fall behind by failing to respond to the epidemic of mental illness among young adults.

UT may work to expand access to quality, affordable care by inviting students to the discussion of campus resource allocation, more closely examining student needs by conducting a study on Longhorn mental health, and by paying attention to the changes in demand for resources. In order to remain among the top universities in the world, the university must execute an effective plan for mental health care with specific student needs in mind.

Emily Severe is a Business Honors junior from Round Rock. She is a guest columnist.