Help is as near as a click away for Lobos at the University of New Mexico. And just after the University’s Mental Health Screening Week — the first week of its kind at UNM — it’s time now rather than later to take stock of personal mental health.

Therapy Assistance Online is an anonymous, free online resource for all affiliates of UNM. This tool, which was largely promoted during UNM’s Mental Health Screening Week that took place from Nov. 15-19, aims to provide mental health and well-being aid for individuals. The only thing needed to access it is an active UNM email.

Former college counseling center director Sherry Benton created TAO in 2012 after students faced waiting lists to see counselors at her large, public university — the same situation that students at UNM sometimes face at Student Health and Counseling.



“I think it’s really important because it does two things: it helps identify the stressors we expect students to have — it helps them use tools to become aware of that — and it also decreases the stigma around help-seeking,” SHAC associate clinical director Karen Lucero said.

Content about anxiety, finances, COVID-19-related topics and more can be accessed on TAO.

“TAO is designed to relegate and give you a bit more information about why a person would feel a certain way after a specific event happened … There’s a plethora of different topics on TAO,” Noah Solomon, TAO administrator coordinator and director, said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made a significant impact on the mental health of many individuals, and Lucero said it has created more stressors for a lot of people, “whether it was isolation, losing a loved one, financial stress or having to move in with their parents.”

Although the program has mainly been marketed toward students, Solomon said it’s also viable for staff, faculty and more.

“Everyone from newly enrolled freshmen all the way up to the president’s office can use TAO, and everyone in between,” Solomon said.

Solomon said that since the pandemic started last March, SHAC has seen an increase in mental health crises, largely in the student population.

“Using TAO — this free service we have — even for 15 minutes, is increasing (students’) knowledge around external pressures or anxiety (and) can go a long way,” Lucero said. “It’s a self-help resource that just will quickly provide ideas or tools around how to manage that pressure or stress.”

Mental Health Screening Week used to only span a day at UNM, typically around Oct. 10, which is World Mental Health Day. However, due to scheduling conflicts, the event was pushed to November this year and was fully virtual due to the pandemic.

The event was lengthened from a day to a week due to an updated version release of TAO that had a new interface. To explain the new version and how it works, Solomon created a five-part set of videos that explained the logistics of TAO. 

The lengthened event also allowed for Zoom drop-in groups with SHAC counseling providers, where individuals could talk to providers about their TAO results.

This week-long event serves as a type of experiment to help determine how long the event will be again in the future, according to Solomon.

Lucero said TAO can “catapult change” and is especially useful as finals week, a very stressful time in the semester, nears.

“I encourage students to appraise what’s happened this semester and then look forward to the next semester and figure out how to use this resource to support their changes or maybe better manage their stress,” Lucero said.

The program is not mandatory for anyone to use but rather can serve as a reminder that resources are there, Solomon said. He said UNM has other helpful aids as well, such as the resource centers, Agora Crisis Center, SHAC and Counseling, Assistance and Referral Services.

“We all at the SHAC encourage everyone to get a screening, and not just wait for the one day a year. Do this whenever you feel like, ‘I might want to work on an issue’ or do it when you feel like, ‘You know, it’s been a while since I checked in,’” Solomon said. “It’s good to have check-ins with yourself and with professionals every now and then.”

Megan Gleason is the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at editorinchief@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @fabflutist2716