University provides professors with mental health help

Mason Carroll

The University offers numerous mental health resources for students on campus, but that doesn’t mean faculty and staff mental health is overlooked. 

In a given year, one in five adults experience some type of mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. The team at the Employee Assistance Program is the resource faculty and staff in distress can turn to for support with any kind of mental problems.

EAP Director Susan Harnden said the program promotes wellness and collaborates to develop solutions for staff and faculty. Harnden also said the University provides an insurance plan, which includes mental and behavioral health coverage for faculty and staff.

“We have a great opportunity at the EAP to make a difference,” Harnden said. ”I have worked at the University of Texas at Austin for the past 25 years, and I have had the privilege to help and work beside committed and gifted individuals who are making a great contribution to our society.”

Harnden said a professor’s mental health is important because they are in direct contact with students and often have a great deal of influence over them.

“If they are taking care of themselves, they are more available to students and are powerful role models for career and lifestyle success,” Harnden said.

English sophomore Jordan Toomey said she thinks mental health is a necessity for both students and professors, and she is relieved there is place on campus for professors to get help.

“It’s important for professors, as people, because I think we should care about everyone one campus, not just students,” Toomey said. “When you’re trusting someone to teach you information and you’re paying a lot of money, you want them to be mentally there.”

Harnden said approximately 63 faculty visited the center on average 3.5 times last year to discuss concerns such as depression, anxiety and other issues outside of teaching. 

“Staff and faculty are concerned about their students, and in recent years they have helped students directly affected by tragic events on campus as well as by Hurricane Harvey,” Harnden said in an email. “A significant number are stressed about relationships, work/life balance, career decisions, adjusting to personal circumstances, parenting, and navigating the culture of academia.”

Psychology professor Christopher Beevers said there is some evidence showing the rates of depression and anxiety increasing on college campuses, and it is important for faculty and staff to take care of their mental health. 

“The costs of mental health on societies are in the hundreds of millions of dollars when you think about the loss of productivity and mental health treatment costs,” Beevers said. “It is critical of us as a society to try and treat (mental health issues) as effectively as we can.”

As a professor, Beevers said he prioritizes self care due to the stress that comes with teaching.

“I’m not that different from most people,” Beevers said. “I think being a professor can be stressful, so I just make sure I do some (self-care) things and making sure I have a lot of positive activities in my life in times that are really stressful.”