AUSTIN (KXAN) – In 2019, the University of Texas Police Department received 500 calls for mental health conflicts occurring in and around campus. Now, the university is introducing a new mental health crisis response program to help with mental health emergencies and provide support for students, teachers and staff in need.
UT Austin announced this week the launch of the Mental Health Assistance Group and the Response Team. A two-year staffing program of licensed co-workers with police who receive training on ways to respond to mental health emergencies and provide immediate advice to those experiencing a crisis.
The program has been in the works for years, but the timing could not be more important, said Marla Craig, senior associate director for clinical services at the UT Austin Council and the Mental Health Center. With some students returning to campus for the first time since March 2020, the pandemic has revealed increasing levels of depression, anxiety, depression and isolation.
“I think it is more important than ever that we have support, resources in place to serve our UT community members to come to provide information, provide access to services, to the extent that it can get people in link to that next step, ”Craig said.
Prior to the driver’s launch, Craig said UTPD staff had received some training in mental health response and elimination procedures. However, he said that combining their work with trained counselors helps remove any threat or concern on the caller’s behalf, rather than early movement and support activities.
As part of the driver’s call, staff will respond in unmarked uniforms and unmarked vehicles to minimize any threats found on the caller’s name. Advisers will introduce themselves and talk through the crisis at hand.
“We’re just kind of approaching a situation that presents itself as a consultant, and it’s just kind of talking about what might happen and providing that support and such a quiet space, I think it can really raise a position, rather than maybe close to him wearing a law enforcement uniform which can be more intimidating if a person is not sure what he knows, he will meet, ”he said.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics reported high levels of anxiety and depression symptoms in adults aged 18-29 between August 2020 and August 2021. As of mid-August, more than 39% of adults reported recurrent anxiety symptoms, with about 33% noticing recurrent depressive symptoms.
In comparison, in 2019, a similar study compiled by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics found under 10% of adults over 18 reported frequent anxiety and depression levels.
From a national level, Texas ranks 11th for its frequency of adults over 18 reports describing high levels of anxiety and depression symptoms.
A result of the pandemic has been a public awareness of mental health struggles, said Dr. Rebecca Farrell, program manager for NAMI Central Texas. With increased awareness there may be a reduction in stigma around mental health studies.
However, he said this fall will be a turning point for many students as they return to campus – some for the first time in 18 months.
“We’re going to see more anxiety, more frustration, more stress, more often, related to uncertainty. So the question becomes ‘what’s new,’ right?” he said. “People always think, ‘when are we going to get back to normal?’ I don’t know if we will return to normal, but a new normal is being created. ”
For students struggling with anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions, Craig said he hopes the program can provide additional security in receiving the students, teachers and care staff they need. one call at a time.
“Most of us have been feeling very low and only low at the moment,” he said. “So to know that someone cares about you, and that we will go our own way to make sure you get what you need – or to have someone to talk to about a lot of things that maybe we have experienced in a year and a half past – I think it will be important. ”