College can be a hard time for some students. In addition to the anxiety that comes with leaving home and forming new friendships, they face academic stress and worry over their future. Many students struggle to keep up with their classes while handling personal mental health conditions.
How can campus officials do more to promote positive emotional support services on campus? How can they decrease dropout rates and, more importantly, prevent students from feeling helpless or out of control? Here’s what colleges can do to address student mental health and make positive changes.
1. Expand Counseling Services
Many institutions spend generous sums on athletics. They invest in high-tech equipment to elevate their STEM programs above the competition. However, they may fall short in providing mental health care to their student body.
As a result, students face barriers to mental health care. Those who need help may feel reluctant or unsure of how to seek it out. When they do, they face long wait times. Some campuses provide a fixed number of counseling sessions regardless of individual students’ needs. The “take a number and wait” approach can’t adequately help when a person is in crisis.
Colleges would benefit from adding more trained counselors on staff. They can also establish peer support groups for students with various mental health needs. They can even partner with Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous to offer assistance for those struggling with addiction. Plus, they can involve alumni who overcame emotional struggles and achieved success.
2. Host Motivational Speakers
According to suicide survivor and wellness advocate Kevin Hines, more than 25% of college students have been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition. However, they often feel they’re alone in the struggle. Speakers who have overcome similar difficulties inspire students to persevere through their challenging moments.
Universities have much to gain by inviting mental health leaders and speakers to freshmen orientations. They should also offer periodic seminars on wellness as part of the curriculum, where instructors extend extra credit to those who attend. Colleges can even devote some class time to discussions of concepts presented by speakers – and encourage behaviors like reaching out to struggling classmates.
3. Offer Text-Based Support
Students hesitate to ask for help. Often, they fear the stigma of struggling with mental health. They worry others will judge them for what they’re going through.
Colleges can implement anonymous text-based support lines for students. Many young adults live on their phones, meaning help is only a few clicks away. Because they don’t need to provide their name, users can speak freely about their troubles. Technology also enables law enforcement officials to track pings off towers to locate students in danger.
4. Address Gender-Based Harassment
Sexual and gender-based harassment plagues many campuses. In fact, 20 to 50% of female college students experience sexually harassing conduct in academia. Hate crimes are on the rise, as well. Those identifying as members of the LGBTQ+ community express legitimate fears about bullying and its consequences.
Universities can address incidents of harassment with sensitivity and consideration. They should investigate all reports of assaults, especially those in which gender or sexual identity plays a role. Colleges can validate students and prevent mental health consequences by believing their experiences and connecting them to support resources that aid in recovery.
5. Provide Life Skills Classes
College students experience a sudden excess of freedom that some can’t handle. They lose much of the social network they previously relied upon in high school. Plus, they no longer have parents feeding them nourishing meals or encouraging them to go to bed at a decent hour. The pressure of being on their own can lead some students to anxiety or depression.
Institutions of higher learning should mandate life skills classes as part of the curriculum. These programs can teach concepts such as meal planning, school-life balance, scheduling and getting sufficient exercise. They can teach young adults to budget their money wisely and avoid debt. These courses can even cover routine health care techniques, such as oral hygiene and sleep. When students feel supported and learn sustainable habits, they’ll feel less out of control.
6. Encourage School-Life Balance
Lessons should challenge pupils. However, students shouldn’t leave every class feeling as if they’ve run a marathon on an empty stomach – and sometimes stress from classes can become too much to manage. Colleges can work with instructional staff to design courses that push learners without overwhelming them.
University officials must understand that many students today work and attend school at the same time. Rising costs mean many learners take on part or full-time jobs to reduce their student loan burden and afford books. A busy schedule creates stress, but manageable course loads can help encourage success.
Improving Mental Health on Campus
Maintaining mental health is an essential part of a successful education – but students shouldn’t have to do it all on their own. By implementing right measures, colleges can help their students manage stress, care for their mental health and achieve personal success.
About the Author: With a passion for education and student lifestyle, writer and blogger Alyssa Abel makes it her mission to offer helpful, well-informed resources for students and teachers everywhere. Read more of her work on Syllabusy.
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.
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