The University of Texas’ switch to the TimelyCare app is giving students more access to services and more options for overall health.
TimelyCare is a UT System-wide initiative and it’s available 24/7.
“We really like TimelyCare because it offers more services for students. … We’re really excited that it has psychiatric care so students are able to get in with a psychiatrist online via tele-health. They’re able to get psychotropic meds and get medicine to help with anxiety and depression. We don’t prescribe ADHD meds through the app. But anything for depression and anxiety,” UTPB Assistant Dean of Student Wellness JC Ausmus said.
Students can get quicker access to psychologists, as well. The service is free, as are in-person counseling services on campus.
“It’s pretty much instant so they can make an appointment the same day and get in with a psychiatrist the same day through the app via telehealth,” Ausmus said.
She added that the app is holistic, offering workout and mindfulness videos.
The app hasn’t been available that long, so Ausmus hasn’t gotten a lot of feedback, but what she has received has been positive so far.
“We don’t have a large utilization yet, but we are trying to market it as best we can. We’ve got magnets and posters all over campus. But the students that have used it, like it so far,” Ausmus said.
She added that she is on Listserv, people seem to like TimelyCare.
Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Corey Benson added that the app provides immediate access to mental health professionals.
“It increases the timeliness of our ability to support students and it increases our capacity to serve more students,” Benson said.
Ausmus said research has shown that counseling center use is on the upswing.
“We’ve noticed it even here,” she added.
This is supplemental to the counseling center that UTPB offers.
“It reinforces the in-person support that we’re able to provide our students. It also gives online and distance learners the ability to access support services and mental health services, no matter where they are,” Benson said.
Ausmus said they are excited about that because the providers at the UTPB counseling center are limited by licensure laws, so they can only see students in Texas. But with TimelyCare, they can log in and see someone without restriction.
“It increases our capacity to serve students outside of the state of Texas who are enrolled in classes here, as well,” Benson said.
Ausmus said there is a shortage of mental health professionals in the region.
UTPB also recently received $10 million in grants from the Permian Strategic Partnership and the Scharbauer Foundation to strengthen the mental and behavioral health workforce in the Permian Basin. These funds will allow UTPB to cover tuition and mandatory fees for graduate students who live in one of the 22 counties in West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico that make up the Permian Basin and are majoring in clinical psychology, social work, counseling, or school counseling.
“The grant provided through the Permian Strategic Partnership will help us serve the region and increasing its capacity to train qualified mental health providers and provide increased capacity to serve those living in the Permian Basin region,” Benson said.
Ausmus said she thinks the stigma around asking for help has started to decrease.
“Social media is a double-edged sword. It can either be really good or really bad. I think one of the pluses of social media is that it has helped destigmatize mental health care. A lot of people get (online) and talk about their experiences with seeking help. I think that has been helpful in people actually reaching out and getting the help they need and talking about things like depression, anxiety, disordered eating and things like that. I think that the stigma is going down, thankfully. I think we still have a lot of work to do, though,” Ausmus said.
Asking for help is generational and cultural, she observed.
“It may be regional. … If I had to make an educated guess on it I would say it’s cultural and I think it would be the difference in generations, for sure. You see a lot of research pointing at the age gaps and the cultural differences when you look into the stigmatization of mental health,” Ausmus said.
Hopefully once the behavioral health hospital is open, more people will be able to get the help they need in this area.
“Right now, people need help, but they can’t actually get help because there’s just not enough help to be given,” Ausmus said.
There is likely professional burnout, too.
“The burnout in this field is so high,” Ausmus said. “There’s just not enough hours in the day to see the people that need to be seen. It’s just the facts of it. … I think that our counseling center could never close and we could see people all the time if given the option.”
Benson said he thinks help-seeking behaviors have increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Whereas people may be experiencing depression and anxiety at increased level, they’re seeking of help to support has also increased,” Benson said.
The university offers counseling services to students and community members.
“It serves as a training site for graduate counselors and graduate students in both the counseling and psychology programs,” Benson said.
“Something that we’re really proud of is the partnership between Student Affairs and the academic department of psychology and counseling in preparing the next generation of mental health professionals while serving our students and our community and this is one more way that we can support those seeking mental health care,” he added.