For students with anxiety, the CMHC needs an online form to book appointments

Abby Springs

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with social anxiety. Making phone calls, speaking up in class and even simple conversations can create knots in my stomach and runaway thoughts in my mind.

A while back, I decided I wanted to talk to someone about managing my anxiety. But as I picked up the phone to call the Counseling and Mental Health Center and schedule an appointment, the runaway thoughts returned: What if my problems aren’t bad enough? What if I forget to say something? What if they can’t help me? 

I put the phone down. I still haven’t been to that appointment.

When you have social anxiety, a simple phone call can feel like an insurmountable task. Currently, the CMHC only allows students to schedule new appointments in person or over the phone. This means the only way I can get help is through the very thing that I need help for. 

To better serve people who struggle with social anxiety or other barriers, the CMHC should offer an online appointment scheduling form. 

Though my anxiety often makes me feel like I’m alone in my struggles, I’m not the only person who has experienced difficulty booking appointments.

“I have really bad social anxiety. I always have,” English junior Allyson Stephens said. “So even just making that initial phone call — that was really, really hard for me.”

Social anxiety isn’t the only thing that prevents students from scheduling appointments. Undeclared freshman Henry Hooten wanted to go to the CMHC to learn better time and stress management skills. However, his busy schedule meant he couldn’t call the CMHC during business hours.

“I would try to schedule an appointment whenever I had a moment,” Hooten said. “The issue was that I was busy with classes for practically the entirety of their hours.”

Hooten said an online system absolutely would have benefited him. “A lot of times, I could only find a free moment at night, which is why I wanted to schedule the appointment in the first place.”

The current appointment system requires a short in-person or over the phone conversation with a licensed mental health professional. Then, the professional helps determine which resources are appropriate for the student.

“Students are typically asked: ‘What is it that they’re experiencing? How long has it been going on? Have they ever been to a counselor before?’ Questions kind of digging into the issue a little bit more,” said Katy Redd, associate director for prevention, development and media relations at the CMHC.

The CMHC requires the initial phone call or face-to-face conversation because students sometimes think that they can wait a few weeks for their appointment, but it turns out that they may need more immediate care.

However, an online form can determine appropriate care as well. The CMHC could provide a confidential form that asks students the same questions as the phone or in-person conversation. The answers could be sent to a mental health professional, who would then respond to the student using the CMHC’s existing confidential messaging service.

It’s not impossible, either — Redd stated that the CMHC is always open to improving the student experience. 

“We’re always trying to evolve our services. We’re always looking into what best serves student needs,” Redd said. 

For now though, if you need to book an appointment at the CMHC, remember that the office exists to help you. “Our counselors are very sympathetic. They’re ready to listen; they’re ready to hear you,” Redd said.

You can call the CMHC at 512-471-3515. Hopefully, someday, there will be an online form for you to fill out as well.

Springs is a government and political communication sophomore from Dallas.