TEXAS, USA — The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the mental health of people across the state, but more resources are coming online to help.
Texas Psychologists in Action is a new campaign launched by the Texas Psychological Association (TPA) to raise awareness about the importance of psychologists and to help Texans access mental health resources.
Dr. Stephanie Robertson is a psychologist, director of the Tarleton Center for Child Well-being, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Tarleton State University, and the chair of the TPA's Public Education Committee. She told KVUE that oftentimes people confuse which type of mental health expert they should consult: Psychologist, counselor, social worker or psychiatrist.
"We use scientific evidence. We are stem field, to help people to help manage situational problems, trauma, short and long-term emotional needs like chronic stress, mental illness," Robertson said.
This new education campaign will break down the differences between the fields to help people going through a tough time find the right support.
More than that, psychology is a diverse field with multiple specialties in the profession.
On the site, Texans can find information about what psychologists do, their specialized education and training, differences between mental health care providers, tips on choosing a psychologist, a search tool for locating licensed psychologists in the community and additional research and educational content.
“Texas has more than 5,000 licensed psychologists whose education, certification, and clinical and research experience positively impacts the mental health of Texans every day,” said Dr. Fran Douglas, president of TPA. “Our Texas Psychologists in Action campaign shines a light on the diversity of our profession and its direct connection to the daily lives of every Texan.”
The organization is also trying to bring awareness to telehealth. They recently released their priorities for the 87th Texas Legislature, which included advocating for the expansion of telehealth.
"It has opened up access for people who maybe previously were geographically bound or, maybe, were not able to drive all the way in to see a psychologist because they were an hour or two hours away," said Robertson.
During his State of the State on Monday evening, Gov. Greg Abbott announced one of his emergency items this legislative session is pushing for more broadband access.
This would help towards efforts like the TPA's in expanding access to telehealth. The organization also wants to improve access to health services over the phone so experts can help people with limited or no access to internet or technology, like tablets and smart phones.
To learn about the Texas Psychological Association’s legislative priorities, visit their website.
To learn more about the work of the Texas Psychological Association in advocating for the expansion of telehealth during COVID-19, click here. It also offers a wide range of online, in-person, and telephone resources to support Texans’ mental health needs.
Meanwhile, both the University of Texas and Texas State University have announced plans to boost mental health services this year.
At Texas State, the university police department has begun a new mental health community liaison program, naming Officer Jessica Kinney as UPD Mental Health Officer.
And the police department at UT Austin has created a specialized team of officers to respond to 911 calls with a potential mental health element. The officers will be dressed down and in an unmarked car. Currently, all officers who have been with the UTPD for more than two years are considered Mental Health Officers.
"We have always had an enhanced training due to our high volume of mental health calls, but this is a different approach to addressing the needs of our community," a spokesperson told KVUE. "The UCIT (University Crisis Intervention Team) launched on Jan. 11. They will get their new shirts in next week. Our unmarked vehicle will come soon after."
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