Texas Tech introduces a mental health awareness campaign to support students as the university finds its way back from COVID-19.
Journey Roddie was headed to her next Wednesday morning class as she walked through the Student Union Building (SUB). She noticed something different as she turned the corner near the north entrance.
There, surrounded by balloons and the scent of brewing coffee, was Lawrence Schovanec, president of Texas Tech University, out talking with students.
Members of the university's administration were in the SUB serving breakfast on Sept. 29 and offering a listening ear as part of the new “Beyond Okay” campaign that kicked off on Sept. 8. The campaign puts a focus on student mental health and resources.
“Seeing the president hanging out and having coffee with students was really cool,” Roddie said, a senior in the College of Human Sciences. “There was no agenda. He and other administrators just wanted to hear how we were doing.”
The gesture could not have come at a better time. Three weeks prior, Roddie lost her father to COVID-19.
“I have always been an advocate for mental health,” Roddie said. “But my dad passing away was a wakeup call.
“I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in high school, but I avoided going to a therapist because there was a stigma around it. After losing my father, I've realized I need that support. Some things you just can't do for yourself; you need others to come around you.”
Sadly, Roddie is not the only student who has faced trauma during the pandemic.
“We cannot ignore the impact the pandemic had on our wellbeing,” Schovanec said. “Over the past year I have heard from many concerned students, parents, faculty and staff. They shared with me the effect the pandemic had on many aspects of their lives and, in particular, on their mental health.”
“That is why we created Beyond Okay, a campus-wide initiative to address mental health at Texas Tech. The purpose of the campaign is to improve mental well-being and promote the use of university mental health resources among students. It's my goal that every student knows they are supported by a community that cares for them and that they know what services and resources are available.”
Roddie has felt that support during her recent loss.
“My family lives in Central Texas and it's hard to be away from them,” Roddie said. “But the community at Texas Tech has really helped. Just the other day I was on the phone with my mom, and I told her, ‘I am in the best place I could possibly be right now. I am doing better here than if I were at home. There are a lot of resources on campus and honestly, I feel loved here.'”
Texas Tech wants every single student to feel that same care.
The Risk Intervention & Safety Education (RISE) team has been an integral part of the campaign. RISE strives to promote a campus culture that values holistic wellness by supporting student success. RISE collaborated with the President's Office on collateral, design and content for the Beyond Okay campaign.
“The campaign has three goals,” said Brittany Todd, director of RISE. “First, to reduce barriers to seeking help. We want students to know there are nonjudgmental spaces where they can come for help. Our second goal is to promote self-care. When students build healthy lifestyles, their mental health benefits. And finally, we want to teach students how to better support others. Maybe your mental health is OK, but you may have a friend who struggles.”
As students stopped by the table to get free coffee and breakfast, administrators listened to students share what has been hard for them during the pandemic.
While not everyone has lost a loved one, students have experienced different forms of loss. From music students who lost their income during the pandemic to sophomores who lost out on their first year of college, every student had a story to share.
For some, they just felt exhausted.
“It's really tiring having to be careful for so long,” said Shaun McKinney, a senior in the College of Human Sciences. “You have to think about everything ahead of time. If you want to go out for a meal, you think, ‘What's the restaurant's set up like? Are they cleaning and distancing? If I need groceries, can I pick up safely?' After a while, that just wears you down and it's easier to not go anywhere at all.'”
Perhaps that's why students excitedly formed a long line on Wednesday morning to get a free cup of coffee.
“For so long, we couldn't do those kinds of things,” McKinney said.
According to survey data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), anxiety and depression disorder symptoms were highest in college-aged students throughout the pandemic. The CDC indicated the number of college-aged individuals needing prescription medication to treat mental health diagnoses has climbed steadily throughout the pandemic as well.
“This is why we were at the SUB,” Todd said. “We wanted to get the university administration out here to show students real face-to-face support, since we haven't been able to do that for more than a year. As a team, we're always asking ourselves, ‘How can we better connect students with the resources that are available? How do we make sure they know they're supported?'”
Roddie encourages other students to utilize the resources that are offered on campus and to lean on community.
“There is a sense of peace knowing I am not alone in my struggle,” Roddie said. “Many students face mental health challenges, and it's important to remember we don't have to face it alone. This one thing doesn't have to tear you down. If you let people help you, it can actually build you up stronger than you ever were before.”
Resources available to students and campus community are:
- Raider Red's Food Pantry, an organization that provides students with short-term access to supplemental food. Students must be currently enrolled and bring their student ID with them at time of visit.
- Risk Intervention & Safety Education (RISE), strives to promote a campus culture that values holistic wellness by educating students to make informed choices and treat each other with respect.
- Military & Veterans Programs (MVP), assists veterans and their families in achieving academic, personal and professional success.
- JED Foundation, a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide among our nation's teens and young adults, giving them the skills and support they need to thrive today and tomorrow.
- Raider Restart, a program designed to provide individualized education for students about substance use and the impact of alcohol and other drugs on student health, wellness and academic success.
- Raider Recharge, a wellness coaching program that focuses on personal growth through discussion, self-reflection and interactive activities. Students will learn about topics such as stress management, healthy relationships, conflict management and more.
- Campus Inclusion Resource Team (CIRT), serves and connects students who are negatively impacted by another's words or actions to appropriate university resources and support. While Texas Tech is committed to freedom of speech, one person's free speech may sometimes cause another to feel disrespected at times.
- The Office of the Dean of Students, offers support for student needs either over the phone or virtually.
- Student Counseling Center, located on campus, and is a safe community of mental health care for all Texas Tech students. The center's services include individual counseling, personal coaching, group counseling, brief couples counseling, therapy assistance online (TAO) and more.
- Psychology Clinic, located on campus, and is a training and research center that provides psychotherapy and assessment services to the university, Lubbock and neighboring communities.
- Family Therapy Clinic, one of the few accredited Couple, Marriage and Family Therapy (CMFT) doctoral programs in the nation, is located on campus and is a place of hope and healing for life's concerns.
- Student Health Services, a comprehensive medical clinic that offers services such as primary and urgent care, women's health, sports medicine, lab services, x-ray services and a full-service pharmacy.
- TTU Crisis Helpline, a 24-hour service to assist students experiencing a mental health or interpersonal violence crisis.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a 24/7 network of local crisis centers that provide free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
- Crisis Text Line, text 741741 from anywhere in the U.S. and a live, trained crisis counselor will receive the text and respond to help you move from a hot moment to a cool moment.
- Veterans Crisis Line, a free, anonymous and confidential resource that's available to anyone, even if you're not registered with Veterans Affairs (VA) or enrolled in VA health care.
- The Trevor Project, the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) young people.
- Trans Lifeline, a trans-led organization that connects trans people to the community, support and resources they need to survive and thrive.
- TX COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line is a support line to help Texans experiencing anxiety, stress or emotional challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- StarCare Crisis Line, staffed by a dedicated team who provide 24/7 assessment and appropriate interventions and resolutions to people suffering from a mental health crisis along with a 23-hour observation unit where people in crisis can be admitted and stabilize in a less restrictive environment.
- Raider Relief, developed to address students' needs and connect them with essential resources required to achieve academic success. Services include food, housing, financial education and basic living supplies.
- TTU Police Department, helps prevent crime on campus and disseminate safety information. They provide 24-hour law enforcement and security services for Texas Tech and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
- StarCare of Lubbock, offers mental health services, substance use services, aging services, veteran services, intellectual disabilities services and more.
- Voice of Hope, serves those affected by sexual assault through a 24-hour crisis hotline, 24-hour medical accompaniments, 24-hour sexual assault nurse examiner services, counseling, law enforcement accompaniment, case follow ups, judicial accompaniment and community education and prevention.
- Women's Protective Services, combats domestic violence throughout the South Plains by offering a 24-hour crisis hotline, shelter, food, transportation, therapy, children's programs, job readiness programs and more.
- The Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities, offers students in recovery a nurturing and supportive community founded on elements of continued health in recovery, connectedness in community, commitment to academics and civility in relationships.
- Question.Persuade.Refer (QPR), a training open to anyone on campus. Suicide can be seen as a journey of increasing hopelessness that stars with an idea and ends with an act. Anybody with the right skills can disrupt this journey. QPR stands for question, persuade and refer and using QPR skills can provide hope to those in crisis.
- The Office for Student Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct. Texas Tech's Title IX Coordinator is the designated university official with primary
responsibility for coordinating the university's compliance with Title IX and other
federal and state laws and regulations relating to sex-based discrimination.
For additional information about the Beyond Okay campaign or mental health resources on campus, visit the Beyond Okay website.