Effectively address student well-being as you prepare for their return to 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, affecting 60% of college students, and 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.

Here are six ways higher education institutions can prepare students for college emotionally as we shift into “back to school” mode.

Establish a strong base of mental health education

Nearly half of college students will experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, yet many are unprepared. Over 40% of parents and guardians surveyed said they did not discuss the potential for either anxiety or depression when helping their teenagers prepare for college or postsecondary school.

As higher education institutions prepare their orientation materials, there’s a strong push to include mental health education. Knowing how prevalent mental health challenges are on campuses, providing mental health training like Kognito’s At-Risk Mental Health for Students can give students important knowledge and skills, including:

  • Recognizing and identifying the signs of distress in self and peers
  • Effective communication techniques to support a peer who shows signs of distress
  • Understanding support options
  • Referring to additional support
  • Practicing self-reflection and applying strategies to increase resiliency

Learn more about this 40-minute, interactive training solution at Kognito.com.

Read: University Supports Student Mental Health Through Simulation

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 simulation 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. Through this training campuses can effectively create a caring culture 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

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.

In 2021, after a year into the pandemic, research shows that only 15% of college students engaged in campus counseling. Removing barriers can help ensure that students get the support they need.

Explore Kognito’s library of simulated virtual learning experiences for students and staff

Want to build the capacity of your entire campus community? Kognito’s practice-based virtual learning experiences help build confidence to lead 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.

Learn more about our higher education solutions at Kognito.com, or better yet, review a demo to experience the power of role-play conversations with virtual humans.

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