Tennessee Tech’s Counseling Department is seeing two distinct changes among its student population.
Assistant Director of Counseling Services Dr. Christina Mick said the stigma around acknowledging mental health is decreasing, and the use of counseling services are increasing. Mick said during a previous grant report, statistics showed a 160 percent increase in services.
“There’s also an increase in anxiety and depression and stress among college students, than in the past.” Mick said. “When I do the orientation sessions with the parents, I tell them one in every five college students has depression or has had a depressive episode.”
Mick said prior to COVID, Tech focused on outreach on the plaza, in student areas and during freshman orientation. However, she said services had to shift quickly in the Spring.
“Back in March we went from in-person, face-to-face counseling, everything face-to-face, to everything being virtual,” Mick said. “Now we’re kind of living in a virtual world.”
She said the pandemic has sped up the move towards virtual counseling, wellness portals and digital workshops for mental health. Although, Mick said she’s proud of how smooth the transition has been for the department.
“We already had in place, before COVID, an after hours hotline, a crisis hotline,” Mick said. “The student’s can have access to crisis counselors after-hours. We already had digital workshops put on our website. We already had a YouTube channel and we added virtual support groups that we do through Zoom.”
Mick said with students more aware of their mental health, the plan around it becomes more collaborative.
“We provide a lot of psycho education on coping skills, on how to cope with maybe emotions of depression, emotions of anxiety,” Mick said. “Here’s the coping mechanisms for that, the skills for that. As far as your mental health plan, what would you like it to be and how can we help support you in that?”
Mick said other ideas to keep outreach going included, going live on Instagram and Facebook. She said these were a focus, along with creating a virtual open house during Fall orientation.