Column: Caring for mental health helps overall success

July 30, 2020

Dr. Robert Garza

Before the coronavirus outbreak, national data reflected high levels of anxiety among America’s college students. With the added complexities brought on by the pandemic and social unrest, mental health awareness and support is a critical aspect of helping students be successful in their academic journey.

We collected feedback from Palo Alto College students in April 2020, about a month after transitioning to remote teaching and learning, to gauge the evolution of their mental health. The majority of students indicated increased levels of anxiety and trouble sleeping. Nearly half of student respondents indicated that they wanted to pursue professional counseling to develop healthy coping skills.

Nearly four years ago, Palo Alto College launched its Student Health, Advocacy, Resources, and Engagement (S.H.A.R.E.) Center, a one-stop student resource aimed at ensuring students’ basic needs are met, including personal counseling services. Since the move to remote operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Palo Alto College has continued offering free counseling services to students through video conferencing, email, and phone.

In addition to providing personal counseling sessions, we have been engaging students through virtual gatherings called “Social Circles,” discussing topics like nurturing positive relationships, managing emotions, and nutrition for mental health.

It is important for everyone to be aware of their own mental health, especially in this season of social distancing. As we are encouraged to stay home as much as possible, it is important to find ways to connect with others and spend time doing activities that bring joy.

We encourage everyone to find ways to connect safely with family and friends, perhaps using technology, to cultivate positive relationships. Take care of your physical health by getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising. Develop hobbies you enjoy, and work toward new goals. Consider taking some classes to further your education.

At Palo Alto College, we have remained committed to empowering our community for success for the last 35 years by providing high quality education and effective support services to help our students reach their academic and personal goals. To learn more about getting started, visit

This column by Dr. Robert Garza, president of Palo Alto College, was originally published in the San Antonio Express-News' Southside Reporter and