Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

UT experts emphasize mental health resources during heightened stress

Breyona Mitchell

Around the world, the end of November is usually a time of joy — temperatures are dropping, the holidays are approaching and school is almost out for break. But college students experience a completely different feeling shaped by finals, graduation and spring course registration. 

This year, academic life is no different, but the world is. 

Campus life has been irrevocably altered by social tensions. The ongoing war between Israel and Hamas that has claimed over 10,000 lives, the approaching implementation of anti-DEI legislation on campus with Senate Bill 17 and the struggles of affording rent during Austin’s cost-of-living crisis have all weighed on students.

With all these issues currently unfolding, including academic worries, it’s undoubtedly enough to push a person to their breaking point. Because of this, UT experts emphasize the importance of mental health care during times of high stress. 

“There’s a lot of different stressors that are impacting our students,” said Marla Craig, executive director for the Counseling and Mental Health Center. “A lot of it can be really heightened right now because we’re getting ready to end this semester, and all that that means in terms of a student trying to wrap up.”

A 2019 study by the American Psychology Association found that 91% of Gen-Z, including college students, reported experiencing symptoms because of stress, including depression and lack of motivation — yet only half feel like they do enough to balance their mental health.

Dr. Chris Brownson, associate vice president for Health and Well-Being, said that of the students they saw at the CMHC last academic year, 77% identified anxiety as their main mental health concern and 62% said stress. He said students often use the word stress as a blanket term to describe anxious feelings altogether, which Craig attributes to mental health imbalance, as students don’t recognize their emotions and identify solutions. 

“When we don’t take a bit of that break, our lives can become so imbalanced that the impact is quite negative and the burnout can happen at a higher rate because there’s more global exhaustion,” Craig said. “Then we missed out on good opportunities to have been building those connections with others that can actually really help decrease stress.”

One of the most common misconceptions about stress, Brownson said, is the idea that people can postpone taking care of mental health. He said taking consistent care of mental health allows people to better handle life’s stressors. This can be done through apps such as Thrive, which is designed specifically to help UT students adjust their daily habits to better manage mental health, and TimelyCare, which offers 24/7 mental healthcare to all UT students.

“It’s becoming the time of the semester where all the projects are piling up, and sometimes students can make the mistake of saying ‘I can take care of myself later, right now I need to focus on my work,’” Brownson said. “Actually taking care of yourself helps you do those things that are feeling so insurmountable right now.”

People are speaking about mental health more than ever before, Craig said, in part because of Gen-Z’s de-stigmatization of the topic. Brownson said Gen-Z’s willingness to discuss difficult topics extends beyond initial personal stress into the tensions caused by global conflicts. Students’ empathy for strangers affected by these issues shows the campus’ compassion for society, Brownson said. 

“Compassion is when we have strong feelings for somebody that is going through a situation that causes us concern or frustration or grief or anger,” Brownson said. “We absolutely want our students and people to feel compassion, even if it’s not a direct impact on their lives or something that is personally impacting them.”

Mental health help is available for any student through the Counseling and Mental Health Center or any of the above-mentioned resources.

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About the Contributors
Vivien Ayers, Senior News Reporter
Vivien is a journalism and sustainability studies sophomore from Denton, Texas, who is an associate news editor for the Spring 2024 semester. She was previously a news desk editor for Fall 2023 and a senior news reporter covering campus breaking news, the city metro and politics in Spring 2023.
Breyona Mitchell, Associate Comics Editor
Breyona is a sophomore english and studio art double major from Houston, Texas. Currently, they work as the associate comics editor and has previously drawn for the paper as a senior artist. They love playing video games with their friends.