Advocacy group continues mental health efforts by advising on CMHC programs

Tori Duff

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the August 25 flipbook. 

After mental health advocacy group Students Organizing for Support held sit-in protests last spring to rally for guaranteed therapy sessions, the group will now step in to advise UT mental health programs.

The coalition’s main goal is to ensure at least six free counseling sessions each semester because the Counseling and Mental Health Center does not currently guarantee a specific number of appointments. The coalition also protested for increased funding for case management services and better alternatives to the UT Police Department and the Behavior Concerns and COVID-19 Advice Line. The CMHC reached out to group members after their first protest in April to work on their calls for change, but funding issues are stalling progress on these demands.

“It’s more on the University’s allocation of funds than the people working at the CMHC because they have been super receptive to our demands, and they wish they could have more staff members,” said Eleanor Walter, University Democrats president and coalition member. 

The group is now advising the CMHC on developing programs, such as a new peer support group program, Walter said. Walter met with the CMHC over the summer to discuss how to create a safer and more comfortable environment for students since Walter said many students may be uncomfortable talking with adults.

“Honestly, it’s so scary to admit that you even need help, and then it is also scary to ask for help,” Walter said. “And if they’re putting another thing of, ‘Oh, you need to go find an outside source, even though we’ve promised that this is a resource that’s here for you.’ That’s another thing that complicates it, and it delays the process of students finding help, which can have potentially dire consequences.”

The coalition is composed of members from several campus organizations, including University Democrats, UT’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, progressive issue advocacy group Texas Rising, Students Fighting Climate Change and Beyond Bernie UT.

Adrian Lancaster, CMHC peer support project coordinator, said he is recruiting a student advisory group that will create ideas on how students and peers can interact in a support group format.