UT regents fund crisis-intervention programs systemwide

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Each year, thousands of UT Austin students call in to a crisis intervention hotline, for help on whatever problems they may be facing. However, that resource and other crisis intervention programs have not been available for students at the rest of UT’s campuses. Now that’s going to change, for all 15 institutions. UT Regents unanimously voted to allocate more than $2.5 million to fund crisis intervention programs. This will include pay for a bystander intervention program and a suicide prevention initiative which includes a systemwide, after-hours crisis intervention hotline.

A student at UT Austin, Ashley Boynton, is well aware of the stresses college life can bring.

“Someone having a difficult time at a party or someone who’s made uncomfortable by a rape joke,” said Boynton, “or someone who just sees a friend acting differently.”

Boynton says the stigma of mental health is very real on campus, and it can sometimes be hard for students to ask for help, “I think most people, not just students, want to feel like ‘that’s great for other people, but I don’t need something like that’.”

Chris Brownson, associate VP of student affairs and director of the counseling and mental health center, helped push for the funding. He is part of a task force that UT Regents created to tackle these issues. He says they work to create avenues for students to get the support and help they need while studying at the University.

“On the most extreme we’ve had situations where our counselors have intervened to save student’s lives,” he said. “Students concerns don’t always happen on an 8 to 5 schedule.”

“It will help to know that someone’s looking out for them,” Boynton said, “and that person knows who to contact and what steps to take.”

Breaking down the numbers, $1.1 million was approved to fund crisis hotlines for each of UT’s academic and health institutions for the next five years — which will be operated out of UT Austin. Also approved, $1.4 million for the next three years for the Bystander Initiative Program.

The Bystander Initiative Program helps educate campuses on how they can help those who may be suffering from a mental disorder. It will train faculty, staff and students to recognize and mitigate hazing, substance and alcohol abuse, sexual assault, suicide and other mental health issues.

The 24 hour hotline will be rolled out to the various campuses this fall, and the bystander intervention program by January.

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