By Melanie Love Salazar
SAN MARCOS–Being a college student is a formative, but stressful time in a young adult’s life, and students at Texas State have found unique ways to cope.
Texas State grad student Lucas Robbins moved from Memphis, Tennessee to Austin, TX to complete his undergrad at St. Edward’s University. He now is a grad student pursuing his masters in technical communication. Robbins said that being away from his family is something he still finds challenging, after growing up with and getting used to that support system.
“ I didn’t go to therapy before college and so I had to rework a lot of my support systems and figure out how to maneuver therapy on my own,” Robbins said.
Having an inconsistent schedule and workload, especially in undergrad are also factors that affected his ability to take time to look after his mental health.
“I would get a good routine and then the next semester would hit and it would switch it up…especially because I’m a writer and I do all these writing assignments, it’s hard to know when to stop, it’s all kind of self guided and self directed,” Robbins said.
Attending counseling, taking medication, and prioritizing sleep have helped Robbins to manage his mental health throughout his college years. He said, “One thing I’ve been trying to do is turn my phone off and play an audiobook and don’t look at my phone so I’m still able to do something fun but not look at my phone.”
While Robbins attended St. Edward’s University, he used the college’s counseling center and resources. He said their counseling center included free individual counseling for a total of about six sessions, and group counseling was also offered.
“Group was the most effective for me when I was in undergrad, I thought it was really great and I was doing individual counseling almost the whole time when there was availability.”
As for the resources offered at Texas State, Robbins considered, but never went through with making an appointment at the university’s counseling center.
“I asked about what the process is like to get an appointment and everyone was like ‘you can’t, it’s impossible, and you can only get like three sessions…“I was hearing super negative things about getting an appointment and I was hearing that they only had one psychiatrist,” Robbins said.
At Texas State, Robbins said that compared to St. Edward’s University, the counseling center’s services do not appear as advertised or easily accessible.
“I definitely don’t even know where the counseling center is…Just that alone is a huge switch up from St.Edward’s (University).”
When Robbins finished his undergraduate studies at St. Edward’s University, he experienced difficulty in the transition from a constant support system once again.
“Because I only ever saw mental health services through the school, so I didn’t have to pay for them, I didn’t have to seek out who my therapist was going to be…I feel like when I graduated and left that environment, I didn’t know how to go about finding a therapist after that. I kind of wish they had prepared me for that.”
Robbins does still participate in therapy sessions not affiliated with the resources at Texas State University.
Senior Manar Naser transferred from another university Fall 2021. Mainly, she has struggled to find time for herself with the busyness that comes with being a college student with a part-time job.
“This is definitely my busiest semester since I started my college career so I haven’t had time to check in and reassess how I’m doing or how my mental health is,” Naser said.
Having a clean space and attending counseling have both helped Naser manage her mental health, as she feels that it not only decluters her physical space, but her mental space.
“I do take advantage of the counseling center and I have since I transferred here last Fall. So, I meet with someone regularly, and I do that to manage where I’m at.”
Because Naser was going through a difficult time around the time of her transfer to Texas State, she felt taking advantage of the counseling center’s resources would be helpful. She has attended both group and individual counseling at Texas State.
However, both Naser and Robbins were unsure of exactly how many free appointments students who make appointments at the Texas State counseling center receive.
“I definitely think they need to be clear about how many sessions they offer to students because I feel as if you can get blindsided by that really quickly. Let’s say you’re going through a really difficult time in your life and your counselor is like ‘by the way this is the last session, we can’t offer you anymore sessions’, but I do know the counseling center can get pretty overwhelmed pretty quickly because there’s only so many counselors available.”
Naser said that she does not think Texas State is as outspoken about mental halth as they should be.
“I am reminded more about mental health by my apartment complex than I am with the school…they send out monthly emails and are constantly posting about it on their Instagram page,” Naser said.
While attending a Mental Health Awareness Day event at her apartment, she received a sticker that is associated with the “Hi, how are you project?”
According to the “Hi, how are you?” project’s website, they are an organization based in Austin whose mission is to “remove the stigma around mental health, one conversation at a time.”
Claudia Salazar is a counselor with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and masters in counseling. She has been a counselor for sixteen years.
When wanting to manage your mental health, Salazar recommends students take advantage of the resources on their campus as well as what is available and credible online.
“I think with the internet being so huge, you can find anything online, finding positive sites, finding positive podcasts that are going to help you de-stress,” Salazar said.
It is common for counseling center’s at universities to have wait-times for students wanting to make appointments. Because this can cause more stress for the individual, Salazar said it is important to take other action if necessary during that time.
“If they’re reaching out to a counselor that’s a good first step. If they unfortunately have to wait a month or a month and a half to be seen I would say to think of an adult in their life that they trust and reach out to them so they can talk to them about what’s going on. A lot of the time that helps, getting a different perspective from somebody else.”
Another issue college students experience is working to make time to look after their mental health due to having a busy and unpredictable schedule. Salazar said doing smaller things that do not take up much time is still effective.
“First is to be self aware, to recognize how you are feeling, and I would suggest to think about the things you enjoy doing and give yourself some time to look after yourself and relax. It’s also important to remind yourself that feelings don’t last forever,” Salazar said.
If more time is available in one’s schedule, she also said journaling, painting, exercising, and listening to music can be helpful.
According to Salazar, there is a role teachers too can play in supporting students who are struggling with their mental health.
“It’s important for teachers to create a safe environment in their classroom, to build relationships with their students so that if there is something that is affecting the student at the time, the student might feel comfortable reaching out to them,” Salazar said.
Audio Interview with Texas State students:Read more
Data Elements on College Students and Mental Health: