Implement online mental health module for first-year students

Ameline Muyeed, Columnist

Content warning: This column contains mention of suicide. 

We’re all familiar with the stress and anxiety that we experience during our college journey. So, it’s unsurprising that more than 60% of college students meet the criteria for at least one mental health problem. College is a time of transformation and transition, and it can be especially challenging for first-year UT students who are navigating homesickness and trying to adapt to a new environment. All these factors can take a toll on mental well-being.  

While the Counseling and Mental Health Center at UT offers various mental health resources, there’s an information gap on how to utilize them. It’s vital that UT provides its students with a comprehensive review on accessing mental health resources on campus.

UT should implement an online mental health module for first-year students that teaches students how to make well-informed choices about their mental health. 

Katy Redd, Associate Director for Prevention, Development and Media Relations at CMHC, expressed openness to the idea of an online mental health module. 

“We always want to be open-minded to expanding resources for students, especially when it comes to mental health,” Redd said. “We’re always interested in evolving our services to meet student needs.” 

However, Redd also believes in a holistic approach when dealing with mental health. 

“The thing with an online education module is that it’s one piece of a puzzle…. When we talk about mental health resources or suicide prevention, we need to take a holistic approach,” Redd said. 

Certainly, a holistic approach towards mental health is essential. For example, MindBody Labs at the CMHC and the Thrive App can tailor the help they provide to individual needs. However, an online mental health module could reach a wider audience and could plant the seeds for a culture of wellness on campus. 

The module would cover topics on stress management, academic pressure, early prevention and seeking help. It could also include a section on how to support friends or acquaintances that are having suicidal thoughts or suffering from depression. Providing students with a comprehensive overview about dealing with mental health concerns can help students gain self-awareness about the mental health issues they are facing and then seek help that caters to their needs. 

Vanessa Williams, a social work senior, believes that providing first-year students with a comprehensive overview about mental health can help students succeed academically. 

“Reinforcing coping skills can teach about self-care boundaries,” Williams said. “Things that will help you have an overall better mental health are super important because if you don’t have mental health, you don’t have health, and not even the stamina to succeed academically.” 

To encourage student engagement, the module should be interactive, incorporating elements like quizzes, videos and games to help students internalize information and gain a better understanding on how to respond to their mental health needs in specific situations. There is already precedence for this type of structure, mainly in the Alcohol Edu module we all have to complete while at UT. 

The mental health module could be unique if it includes a section on mental health concerns that individuals from a certain culture or ethnicity may face more than others. This module can act as an ice-breaker and encourage students from these backgrounds to be more self-aware about their mental health. A required online module would provide resources for more students and encourage underrepresented groups to be active in mental health conversations.   

The mental health crisis has become too big of a challenge to ignore. While students can take personal action to reach out for help, UT must make student mental health a priority.   

Muyeed is an economics sophomore from Southlake, Texas.