Strategies for Supporting Student Well-being on Campus this Fall
As higher education leaders prepare for students to return to campus this fall, the spotlight continues to shine on mental health awareness. Mental health disorders are prevalent, with 77% of college students experiencing modern to severe psychological distress. Higher education institutions play an important role in supporting the awareness, education, and mental health services they need to succeed inside and outside the classroom.
We’ve outlined six strategies colleges and universities can integrate into their back-to-campus plans to prepare students for college mentally and emotionally.
Establish a Strong Foundation for Mental Health Education
Nearly half of college students will experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, yet many are unprepared to manage these feelings or know when to seek help. As campuses preapre their orientation materials, they recognize how critical it is to offer mental health education. Kognito’s At-Risk Mental Health for Students teaches both the knowledge and skills they need to:
- Recognize the signs of distress in self and peers
- Develop effective communication techniques to support peers in distress
- Understand support options
- Know how to make a peer referral to additional support
- Practice self-reflection and applying strategies to increase resiliency
Learn more about this 40-minute, interactive training solution at Kognito.com.
Increase Awareness of Support Services
One of the biggest hurdles for college students struggling with mental health is that they often don’t know where to turn. Nearly 3 out of 4 students aren’t sure where to go on campus to receive mental health treatment.
The fall semester is an excellent opportunity to teach new students and remind returning students about the mental health support available to them on campus.
The At-Risk Mental Health for Students training can be customized to include campus-specific resources. Interactive content and role-play conversations teach students how to recognize the need for support, as well as where to go for support. This training creates a supportive campus culture of care that is far more impactful than a skipped-over PowerPoint slide or a skimmed over email.
Understand Risk Factors
Anyone can experience mental health challenges, and we know college-age students are particularly at risk. However, there are additional factors that make students especially vulnerable to mental health struggles.
According to the Mayo Clinic, students at the highest risk for depression and anxiety are:
- Low-income students
- Students of color
- Female students
- Students who identify as LGBTQ+
- Students who are caregivers for children or other adults
Additionally, certain events or situations that can trigger depression or anxiety in college students include:
- Relationship breakups
- Sexual assault
- Peer relationship difficulties
- Sexual identity adjustment difficulties
- Drug or alcohol use
- Family history of depression
- Stressful life events
- Comparison of academic, athletic or social performance to one’s peers
- Fears of disappointing parents because of grades or career path choice
Campuses are addressing these risk factors through a variety of efforts, including programs for at-risk groups, peer support groups, and a diverse array of skill-building experiences.
Connect Students to Counseling Centers Early
Some campus counseling centers begin seeing registered students before classes even begin. Students who already know that they need support may be seeking out these services, and starting with counseling before classes can help them transition better to college life.
Once classes have begun, it’s still important that students get support early to avoid a crisis. The first counseling session can be the hardest, because a student needs to know where to go, take action to seek help, and possibly overcome stigma to do so. If possible, offer initial appointments on a same-day basis so they don’t have to wait longer after overcoming those obstacles.
Ensure Your Counselors are a Reflection of the Students They Serve
Students of color are less likely than white students to use campus mental health services. This can be attributed to stigma, as well as a lack of diversity among counseling center staff.
Students who belong to the BIPOC community are at higher risk, yet may struggle more to find a counselor they feel comfortable with. If your campus counseling center lacks diversity, hire appropriately or consider partnering with off-campus providers to meet students’ needs.
A recent survey shows that rates of depression and anxiety among college students are at historic levels, with 90% of counseling center directors reporting an increase of students seeking services. However, the demand for services has led to burnout among counselors, and turnover is rapidly increasing, according to the center directors’ annual survey. Removing barriers can help ensure that students get the support they need.
Explore Kognito’s Library of Practice-based Learning for Students and Staff
Want to build the capacity of your entire campus community? Kognito’s practice-based training helps to build confidence in leading conversations related to mental health and complex social issues. This type of skill-building has a measurable impact while cultivating a campus-wide web of support.