Graduate Students Elizabeth Hentschel and Benjamin Spear entered the Counseling Psychology graduate program in Educational Psychology at The University of Texas for similar reasons. Both Hentschel and Spear wanted to gain solid experience in conducting research and providing clinical services to diverse populations. Spear enjoys the freedom and flexibility that graduate school offers. “What I enjoy most about graduate school is the ability to do different and new things each week… In my average week I am a student taking classes, a graduate assistant for the Be That One. Suicide Prevention Program, a clinician working with clients in individual therapy, and a researcher studying college mental health,” said Spear.
Hentschel and Spear serve as Research Assistants for the National Research Consortium of Counseling Centers in Higher Education. The Research Consortium (RC), housed at the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center, conducts large scale, national research studies on the mental health issues of college students. Hentschel serves as the Coordinator for this group where she helps to organize the team, facilitate team meetings, and manage communication among RC members. The Principal Investigators for this group are David Drum, Ph.D. and Chris Brownson, Ph.D. Dr. Drum is a professor in the Counseling Psychology program, and Dr. Brownson serves as Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center.
The most recent RC study that both Hentschel and Spear have been involved in focused on how distress and suicidality develops in college students and why some distressed students become suicidal, while others do not. This research seeks to understand mental health through a population-based perspective by examining students who are struggling as well as those who are thriving. The study seeks to understand how students’ sense of belonging, coping strategies, sense of self, and past experiences play a role in how students respond to college stress. Research findings will be used to develop strategies to promote better general mental health for all students, as well as prevent distress from developing into thoughts of suicide.
To supplement this research with relevant applied experience, both also serve as Graduate Assistants for the Be That One. (BT1) Suicide Prevention Program. Housed in the Counseling and Mental Health Center, BT1 addresses suicide prevention on the UT campus in a comprehensive manner by:
- Raising awareness about the issue of college student suicide.
- Empowering faculty, staff and students to take an active role in preventing suicide amongst our students.
- Striving to ensure that UT’s systems, policies, culture, and environment are conducive to students’ mental health.
Hentschel enjoys the opportunity gained from her research with the RC to influence population-based comprehensive suicide prevention efforts on our campus. Said Hentschel, “I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to begin understanding how research and clinical application inform one another.”
Spear, too, feels that his contributions to the BT1 program have been meaningful. “Even when I first joined, I felt that my input was valued, and that I was able to contribute to the future of the Be That One. Program in a meaningful way. Because of this, I have not felt that working at BT1 was just a job, but instead it feels like a place where I can actually make a positive difference at UT.”
There will be an open suicide prevention workshop for all TA’s and AI’s on February 18th from 7-8 p.m. in SAC room 1.106. More information about the Be That One. Suicide Prevention Program can be found at www.cmhc.utexas.edu/bethatone. To book a free workshop for your campus group, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (512)475-6962.