When students are distressed, UT professors sometimes intervene


Photo Credit: Megan Clarke | Daily Texan Staff

As the Counseling and Mental Health Center says the number of students seeking care for mental health crises continues to rise, professors are sometimes faced with handling students in distress.

Marla Craig, CMHC associate director for clinical services, said anxiety, stress and depression in students tends to rise to the surface because of UT’s competitive atmosphere. The CMHC reported 988 walk-ins from students in crisis during the 2017-2018 school year, said Katy Redd, CMHC associate director of prevention and outreach.

“Once that stress and pressure become too much, that’s when (students) are starting to communicate to faculty,” Craig said. “I don’t care who they’re communicating to, as long as they’re communicating with someone who can then bring them to the counseling center.”

Associate professor Lee Ann Kahlor said she aids a student through a mental health crisis about once a semester.

“One would have to be in denial to not accept that we are in the business of working with people that are in a very difficult transitional time,” Kahlor said. “I think all faculty have at least one student come to them each semester with varying levels of need.”


Soncia Reagins-Lilly, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, sent an email to faculty and student affairs administrators announcing a Mental Health and Well-Being Symposium for faculty on Nov. 13. 

The symposium will include a training called “Intervening with Students in Distress,” which will provide practical skills for managing situations where a student might be in distress, Redd said.

“Having professors do this training destigmatizes (mental health issues) and gives them the resources to be able to help students,” said Kelly Choi, government sophomore and co-director of the Student Government Mental Health Agency.

Fifteen years ago, Kahlor said students would return to her for help because they didn’t want to be seen at the counseling center or had difficulty scheduling appointments.

“It used to be much harder than it is now to get those students help,” Kahlor said. “(Now), we don’t have to provide expertise that we don’t have.”

Kahlor said CMHC’s procedures for students in crisis now allows for professors to be certain that a student will receive the help they need.

“It takes the stress off of us,” Kahlor said. “We’ll still follow up with the students ... but (now) it’s not just us helping the student.”