TAMIU helps students cope with pandemic effects
By Azeneth Campos
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, Oct. 26, 2020
Although uncertainty affected the lives of students amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the spirit of the Dustdevils are aided through the guidance and outlook of a group of counselors.
Daniel Alvarado, a licensed professional counselor from the Texas A&M International University Student Counseling Center, said the University offers a variety of services to students; one of which includes Telehealth during therapy sessions.
Through the center, students access counseling and accommodation services without additional charge; student health fees pay for these services. Additionally, the center offers similar services to faculty, as well as staff, needing counseling through a separate Employee Assistance Program.
Alvarado said the increased demand for mental health services necessitated the creation of the SCS after more students became aware of mental health concerns and needs.
“We started off with two to three counselors,” he said. “During that year, each counselor would see maybe five students to a maximum of 10 students the whole year, but now we see 30 to 40 students each counselor.”
He also said SCS received a steady increase of students requesting services resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While students are adjusting to the ‘new normal,’ since classes moved to an online format,” Alvarado said, “Telehealth helps us offer therapy while maintaining social distance.”
He said this method proved to be successful among students requesting services during the pandemic.
“Students are adapting well and like interacting through virtual platforms,” Alvarado said. “I had a student make an arrangement and offered her counseling while she was in her car through Zoom, on her own time, instead of coming into the office.”
Counselors also offer other platforms such as Therapy Assistance Online, MY3 and Mindshift to provide students with tips and tools through apps. These apps encourage students to be more open to professional help if needed. For example, TAO uses designed modules to equip individuals with strategies to help them feel less anxious that day and as they move forward in life.
Interested persons may call the SCS front desk for a consultation. An assessment is conducted to identify symptoms before making any recommendation and/or referring to another agency for further assistance, such as Border Region Behavioral Health Center, Pillar and Gateway.
Spanish major Jorge Rangel, 24, praised the University’s efforts to promote mental health awareness.
“Although it feels awkward to open yourself to others, the services offer emotional stability to students by showing genuine interests in them,” Rangel said.
He visited the Student Counseling Center as a requirement for a Study Abroad program last semester.
The process requires student-counselor confidentiality. Nevertheless, Texas law requires counselors to immediately report any suspicion of abuse or neglect.
Accounting major Delisse Sanchez said she supports the idea of the center, although she was not fully aware of the services offered.
“Even though I’m not familiar with the [center], I like the fact that the University is offering help for students struggling with mental illness during the pandemic,” Sanchez said.
Lastly, Alvarado said he wants to encourage the TAMIU community as the pandemic continues to evolve.
“This won’t last forever, but we all need to [play] our part in order for things to get better,” he said.