The Future of Mental Health at UT
In January, President Gregory Fenves sent out a mass email to the student population declaring that the counseling services at the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC) would be free. This came at the tail-end of the Student Government declaring a mental health crisis on campus, and by February legislation was passed to create a Mental Health Agency as part of Student Government .
The Mental Health Agency is only in the beginning of its first year contributing to campus life, however, the current director Kyler Wesp set up the Rally for Reality event in the spring. The event encourages people to join the agency in a safe space where they can share and reflect upon their experiences at an open mic. The agency and its newly minted board of assistant directors hope to continue this initiative in a greater capacity this year.
In creating the Mental Health Agency, Student Government and administration are showing a greater dedication to providing mental health awareness and services in a practicing capacity to the student body. Agencies in UT’s Student Government are dedicated to not only representing student interests but also hosting events and discussions to further integrate people into activism and awareness. While the school successfully broadcasted the newly waived fees at the CMHC, there are countless other services offered by the center that go unnoticed. The Mental Health Agency hopes to promote these services while cultivating a campus climate that is conducive to open discussions of these struggles and how to reach out for help.
In addition to amplifying the existing services offered by the UT administration, the Mental Health Agency also hopes to continue in its more grassroots origins and host events that welcome student interpretation and participation. Rally for Reality will be making a return this upcoming Spring, and will be joined by a Slam Poetry Collab night, aiming to connect with passionate students from different colleges and organizations to create a campus wide effort to better broadcast their message. They are also looking to host a Panel of Professionals which would moderate a discussion for students between mental health professionals and UT faculty.
The biggest obstacle when it comes to creating policies that address mental health issues is the problem of silence. There is a social and cultural taboo surrounding open and honest discussions of mental health. While the agency is still in its infancy, it is a good first step in the direction of connecting everyday students with those who influence these policy decisions and fostering a conversation.