TSC counselor ready to improve student mental health

The well-being of every student, from safety to mental health, is a priority of Texas Southmost College. With the stressors of today, especially during a pandemic, TSC’s newest Counselor and Accessibility Manager Mario Garcia wants every student to know his door is always open.

With only two weeks on the job, the Harlingen resident has already hit the ground running ensuring that students get the help they need to finish Scorpion Strong.

“These students are our future,” he said. “In college, I wish I had someone to speak with, someone who could guide me and listen to my struggles with daily pressures, so that’s why I’m here. I want to be that support and guidance I wish I had.”

According to recent college student surveys from the American College Health Association, about 60% of respondents said they felt overwhelming anxiety, while 40% experienced depression that made it difficult to function.

According to the same surveys, the top five mental health problems faced by American college students today are: depression, anxiety, suicide, eating disorders and addiction.

“My goal is to teach our students coping and problem-solving skills that can lead to solutions that allow them to keep moving forward,” said Garcia. “With mental illness on the rise across the nation, it’s important that we face these problems head on together. No one is alone.”

Garcia went through a few struggles of his own as a college student, primarily because he lacked a clear path to follow.

“I relate in a lot of ways to these students,” he said. “For me that’s important. I want them to know I understand the issues. I’ve been there and done that, but there is hope and there is a bright future. They’ve got my support, our support.”

Before earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1999 and 2005, respectively, in Clinical Psychology from the University of Texas-Pan American, now the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Somalia for Operation Restore Hope. He served for four years.

“This was a time of discovery, as was college,” he said. “I went from wanting to become a nurse to becoming a licensed professional counselor, a path that has served me well and helped me serve our community.”

Garcia worked with Tropical Texas Behavioral Health for nearly two decades working in the areas of substance abuse and children and adult mental health. He also worked in the criminal justice system as a screener, skills trainer and therapist.

He went on to work with Su Clínica for a year and half before joining the TSC family.

“This has turned out to be the most rewarding career,” said Garcia. “Seeing people have that ‘aha’ moment and realizing for themselves the changes they need to make is success. There can be no change if it isn’t discovered by ourselves, only then can true change or healing happen and that’s what I hope to bring to our students.”

TSC students can visit the Counseling and Student Accessibility Resources office at the Lightener Center, room 102A or call 956-295-3587.