Although the University is working towards improvements, current mental health services are inadequate. Our student body must continue to identify problems in our mental health treatment and pressure UT’s administration to find solutions.
UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center provides many services for the student body, including individual counseling and group counseling sessions. After a recent subsidy from the Longhorn Network, CMHC now provides up to six free individual counseling sessions. However, many students don’t think that’s enough.
Chemistry freshman Sindhu Venkat, for example, has used five of those six appointments. That limit, Venkat argues, “doesn’t provide the support that a lot of people who have mental illnesses would need. You can’t fix a problem like that in six sessions, and there’s no nearby long-term therapists.”
Although the CMHC has to eventually refer students to off-campus therapists because of an overabundance of demand, it would be highly preferable if they could add unlimited individual therapy to their current on-campus services.
Venkat currently has to travel off campus for her therapy, taking a 30-minute bus ride to get there. It’s a difficult process. “It has to happen during business hours, and I have lab and classes during that time. Every week it’s a struggle to fit it in.”
Cost can also be an issue. Venkat said that while she only pays $25 for an appointment with her insurance, students without insurance might have to pay up to $80 or $120 per session.
CMHC offers limitless alternatives to individual sessions, such as group therapy, but these are often ineffective. “It doesn’t fulfill the same need,” Venkat said. “I tried a group in December, and it’s not very helpful for me … we (students may) need the type of therapy where you’re one on one with a therapist and telling them what you’re going through in your life. Group sessions aren’t set up like that.”
This need for more attainable one-on-one care is critical and has the potential to affect everyone on our campus. Experiencing mental health issues is often stigmatized, but it’s something anyone can face, especially in the stressful college environment. That’s something CMHC recognizes and is currently trying to address.
Dr. Marla Craig, the associate director for Clinical Services at UT, noted the overwhelming demand the CMHC is currently facing.
“After Longhorn Network subsidized charges, we had an influx of students, and our system is now managing those new students … I don’t think we can hire our way out of the problem. Whether we charge or not, we will always have a demand. It’s a national issue.”
Craig said that the CMHC recognizes the problem and is currently searching for solutions. “We’ll actually be looking at our system over the summer — how we can use technology to make it more effective.”
She also pushed back against the idea of a hard six-session limit. “The six sessions thing is not so much of a limit as it is a starting place. When students come in, we’ll schedule them for four weekly sessions to start with. The average number that a student attends is three … . We don’t want students to feel like they can’t come back. We want them to call us! We’re here to provide support, whether that is helping them look for other resources or continuing to help them here.”
CMHC isn’t currently fulfilling all students’ needs, and the student body needs to keep pressuring them to do so. However, we should recognize the valiant efforts that it’s making to search for new solutions. In the meantime, we need to continue to identify and address needs in the mental health of our students and carry on a conversation that is all too often stigmatized.
Leake is a Plan II and business freshman. @grace_leake