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

Panelists discuss mental health in Black community in honor of Black History Month

Champers Fu
Panelists (left to right) Tina Alexander, Taylor Payne, and Kim Watts discuss student mental health on Feb. 26, 2024 in UTC 3.104.

The UT Student Government Mental Health Agency hosted a panel centering on mental health in the Black community in honor of Black History Month on Monday. 

Tina Alexander, a counseling and community outreach specialist at UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center, said the lack of culturally competent care at her college’s counseling center sparked her passion for mental health. 

“I was sitting across from this person who just did not have a lived experience that I could resonate with,” Alexander said. “I want to create spaces that I didn’t have so that hopefully college can be a little bit easier for folks.” 

The panelists discussed how social stigmas impact whether people choose to access mental health care. Alexander said she appreciates how TikTok facilitates conversations on mental health as she’s witnessed how many of the students she works with already have language to describe their feelings. 

“It took me until grad school (to understand concepts like) imposter syndrome, but the more folks talk about it, the easier it becomes sometimes,” Alexander said. 

Taylor Payne, a postdoctoral fellow at the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, said it is common for people to mistakenly think that only those going through crises should go to therapy, but it can actually be beneficial to establish a relationship with a therapist before you enter a crisis. She said internalized stigma can prevent people from seeking therapy. 

“I think for millennials and Gen Z, a lot of it is internalized stigma, like what does it mean that I have anxiety? What does it mean that I have depression?” Payne said. 

Kim Watts, a professional counselor, spoke on the importance of mindfulness, urging students to enjoy this phase of their lives and focus on habits that bring them joy. 

“If you have a great place (where) you like to get coffee or tea or chai, then make that a part of your weekly or daily habit to enjoy that,” Watts said.

The speakers concluded by sharing self-care strategies they use. Watts said it is important to think about self-care as organic and flexible rather than stagnant.

“What’s working at the beginning of the semester may not work at the end of the semester, and it may be something totally different,” Watts said. “I give myself permission to change what my self-care could be.”

Alexander said while people often view self-care as an individualized practice, she believes approaching self-care from a community-oriented lens is more useful. 

 “I like to think of things more like collective care, where you’re in this with other people,” Alexander said. “You are a person within a system and if your system isn’t working for you … check in with the people around you.” 

She also shared a hopeful message for students who may not have found a community yet.

“Sometimes the version of college that you see in the media is just not your version of college and that’s okay … you’re not defective,” Alexander said. “There’s a place for you on this campus but also in this world.”

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