By Diego B Gonzales
Blog Content Contributor
On Thursday, Nov. 2nd, the Office of Disability Services held a panel discussion on the topic of college student mental health. On the panel were Dr. Richard Martinez, Dr. Sarah Blalock, Ms. Jojo Cummins, Dr. Angela Ausbrooks and Dr. Emilio Carranco. Moderating the panel was Dr. Eraldo Chiecchi. They primarily discussed how the aftermath of COVID-19 is affecting students financially and mentally.
One of the first talking points of the panel was on how distress brought to students by the pandemic affects Texas State students in a uniquely disastrous way. “Even though we are coming out of the pandemic, we’re still seeing a very high level of distress with our students,” said Dr. Martinez. “When we look at student data for our Texas State students, what we find is that they’re struggling with a higher level of distress than their peers nationally.”
The physical health of students and its relation to mental health was also discussed on the panel. “About 29% of students report low food security at this university,” said Ms. Cummings. “11.8% report not having any health insurance. These are both really big stressors to the student body.”
In a 2022 article by the National Library of Medicine, it was found that food insecurity substantially affects the GPA of a student, adding to their distress. Underestimating College Student Food Insecurity: Marginally Food Secure Students May Not Be Food Secure is an article that goes into the varying effects of food insecurity on college students, an issue that affects a third of college students nationwide.
“The new president has made a commitment to provide more financial aid to our students to try to address these challenges,” said Dr. Carranco, the head of the health center at Texas State. “The Dean of Students office has an emergency fund that is available for students who might be struggling with something on a short-term basis. We’re expanding our mental health services because we know that that is the number one health issue for college students across the country…we’re going to work very hard over the next few years to fill in some of the gaps that we feel exist right now in our support system.”
While Texas State is implementing new methods to tackle mental health problems among students, Dr. Carranco feels that the fear of a stigma associated with mental health is a huge obstacle that prevents some students from asking for help in the first place. “Part of the challenge here is that students wait too long to ask for help,” said Dr. Carranco. “That’s something I would challenge our students to do differently.”
At the end of the panel, Dr. Martinez talked about the TimelyCare app, an app that offers mental health services to students at no additional cost. “You can think about [TimelyCare] as a third-party extension of the mental health services we provide here on campus. You can have access to telehealth visits, and you get to read a provider’s bio and their individual schedule. One of the great things about that is that they provide availability outside the traditional business hours.
More information on the TimelyCare app can be found here: https://timelycare.com/txst/
Written by: Cayla Soriano