UT boosting mental health support after deadly stabbing

A person is treated by first responders after a deadly stabbing attack on University of Texas campus in Austin, Texas, Monday, May 1, 2017. (Emily Johnson via AP)
A person is treated by first responders after a deadly stabbing attack on University of Texas campus in Austin, Texas, Monday, May 1, 2017. (Emily Johnson via AP)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University of Texas at Austin is expanding mental health support services on campus in light of the stabbing attack Monday which left one student dead and three others injured.

UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center has expanded hours for their counseling services. Through at least Wednesday, the CMHC will offer counseling services from 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. as well as student support groups at 5 p.m. on the fifth floor of the Student Services Building.

The CMHC began providing counseling support immediately after they got word about the stabbing, sending counselors to the area where the stabbing happened to offer on-site help to students who had witnessed or were involved with the incident.

“There’s an immediate spike [in the number of students] and then there’ s a long healing period that students are going to be facing in the road ahead,” said Chris Brownson, associate vice president for Student Affairs and Director of the CMHC. “But what we notice after these events is that there’s a lot of need in the immediate aftermath for students to support ones who were directly impacted, whether they knew the victims or were there on site when the tragedy occurred. But what a lot of people don’t see is the pain that continues long after for people who are impacted by this in particular ways.”

Brownson explained that this stabbing happened during finals, which is the time of year the CMHC counselors are most busy with appointments. Tuesday afternoon, he noted that 30 students had already showed up for unscheduled crisis counseling appointments.

Finals time is challenging for students like Joanna Mayer who are now thinking about the stabbing on top of all their academic work. Mayer said she walked around campus Tuesday doing all the things she would have done Monday if the stabbing hadn’t occurred.

UT Austin providing mental health support for students. KXAN Photo// Alyssa Goard.
UT Austin providing mental health support for students. KXAN Photo// Alyssa Goard.

“It’s kind of hitting harder today emotionally, kind of realizing the aftermath of what happened yesterday,” she said.

Mayer was just leaving her business class when she was met by a large group of students who were running inside and yelling. Students told her that someone had been stabbed outside, so she ran with the group to seek safety.

“We quickly went into a professor’s office that tried to get as many students as we could into that office, we all got down on the floor, we turned off the lights we locked the doors and we silenced out phones,” Mayer explained.

She stayed in the classroom until the commotion outside died down, and then joined the masses of students stepping outside to view the scene of the stabbing.

Now she said she approaches her life on campus with a little more worry.

“You look around and you question other people’s motives, as you’re walking around them, and now I think everyone is more vigilant. I think it’s something I don’t think I’ll forget about,” Mayer said.

She said that in working on group projects with other students, she’s noticed most have had difficulty focusing on their academics since the stabbing.

Mayer said she doesn’t think she’ll seek guidance from a counselor to process her feelings about the shooting, but she will be turning to her faith and her friends to talk out her feelings.

Brownson explained that the impact of traumatic events varies from student to student, which is why CMHC offers counseling across the campus as well as support hot lines.

Their crisis line allows trained counselors to hear any issues students might have Their crisis line operators have been informed about the stabbing and are ready to help students accordingly. Students can call in to this line 24/7 at 512-471-2255.

Campus community members who want to report concerning behavior, can call (512) 232-5050 to reach the Behavior Concerns Advice Line.

According to statistics from CMHC, their counseling center has served 53 percent more students over the past 6 years and increased the number of counseling sessions they’ve offered for students by 81 percent.

“The numbers of students coming into the counseling centers every year is increasing year by year, the severity of those concerns are increasing year by year,” Brownson explained.

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