Mental Health Crises In Schools And Colleges
In 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic caused disruptions to education across the globe, forcing the implementation of remote learning models and online classrooms. This sudden transition triggered unprecedented mental health challenges for students, making it harder for them to cope with stress and social isolation.
While the crisis did stimulate innovation within the education landscape, it also amplified many short-term and long-term concerns for students, such as:
- Insecurity about professional future.
- Lack of concentration and interest in learning.
- Excessive worry about student loan repayments.
- Absence of a good study environment at home.
- FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) about ‘college/high school life.’
- The onset of mental health issues.
Besides loneliness, the students also grapple with mental health difficulties that have manifested in different ways, like depression, panic attacks, anxiety, anger, low self-confidence, lesson retention issues, and eating disorders.
The Need for Mental Health Awareness
Now that schools and colleges are back to on-campus teaching mode, supporting students’ mental health concerns has become the need of the hour. But education stakeholders must first try to understand the mindset shifts in their student population and preempt the learning challenges they might face. They must also identify the gaps between existing mental health policies and services. Here are some steps to tackle this problem:
- Conduct detailed surveys to gauge the current mental status of students.
- Benchmark results against peer institutions.
- Identify students’ priorities and immediate well-being needs.
- Reassess academic programs, teaching methods, and policies.
- Plan for holistic on-campus mental health initiatives.
- Advocate resources and services available to students for wellness support.
Student well-being impacts all administrative decisions – enrollment process, budgeting, event planning, counselor recruitment, faculty training, learner management software systems investments, etc. All this requires decision-makers to adopt data-informed and holistic approaches to student lifecycle management.
How can we address the mental health crisis to guarantee students a safe and productive environment?
Encouraging a Safe Campus Environment & Interactive Student Community
In these unprecedented times, having a sense of community connection has never been so crucial for students. It lends students a sense of calm and security – something that educational institutions are not yet fully equipped for or trained to deal with. Often, cases of bullying on campus add to the mental suffering of vulnerable students.
As per the National Center for Educational Statistics report, students’ race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and physical appearance are the most common reasons for being bullied at schools.
To curb this, campuses should enact stringent anti-bullying policies with options for proactive support helplines. Encouraging peer-support groups within campus can also be a helpful alternative for students sitting on waitlists for individual therapy sessions.
Offering Access to Mental Health Support
There are many ways educational institutions can integrate mental health support into campus life:
Training faculty members
Although most schools and colleges have now hired mental health therapists/professional guidance counselors, there is still a need to train faculty members to:
- Identify distress symptoms among students
- Various tactics of on-the-spot counseling
- Specific issues faced by gender and ethnic minorities
Both therapists and faculty members should collaborate with institution administrators to reach out to students needing immediate assistance.
Mental health resource availability
For providing support at all stages of student life (onboarding to graduation), schools and colleges must have a repository of resources that educate students & faculty members on dealing with various mental health concerns. They can be made available in many formats:
- Reading materials like brochures, books, and emails
- List of affordable (or discounted) off-campus counselors
- Helplines on student notice boards and online community forums
- Information about various peer-support groups and assigned on-campus meeting spaces
- Event updates on Alma Mater meet-ups – This will serve as an alternative counseling method to help destigmatize mental health treatment among students, their families, and communities.
Availing of outside support
Schools & colleges can associate with community organizations to provide stress-mitigating tools to their students, such as:
- Scheduling bi-weekly Yoga sessions on campus.
- Tie-ups with online meditation apps like Calm.
- Inviting mental health support organizations to bring in therapy dogs.
By working together, faculty members, therapists, and mental health organizations can make educational institutions safer for students. Such initiatives will not only improve the wellness quotient of the campus but also lessen student dropout rates.
As per American Council in Education, Spring Term Survey Report Feb 2021,
73% of presidents of private 4-year institutions indicated that students’ mental health and wellness had been the top most pressing issues for them. 94% of them reported that anxiety was the most complained-about problem.
For 58% of presidents, the second most common concern is the mental health of their faculty and staff.
Monitoring mental health using mindset surveys
By conducting regular mindset surveys, educational institutions can quickly evaluate the impact of various mental health initiatives on their students’ well-being. For this, faculty & staff members must be empowered with platforms supporting data capture from multiple streams (like on-ground events, quizzes, email surveys, online community gatherings, etc.).
Such information-gathering methods can accurately assess the stress levels and problems of students. This helps create an inclusive, interactive, personalized, and stress-free campus environment. A few great ways these reports can be used are:
- Assign counselors to students showing signs of emotional or mental distress.
- Import results for the college management as assessments.
- Map data about a student’s current state of mind, attitude, sleep quality, and other parameters through self-assessment surveys. This information can be further used to determine the overall fitness level of students.
- Survey results can be used to plan future wellness campaigns and make positive policy changes.
Using efficient learner management software like Cocolevio’s LIMS, medical schools can quickly process data from multiple online & offline sources. LIMS has a built-in wellness tracking tool that keeps the campus community connected and ensures timely mental health support for students.
This game-changing software empowers medical school management with student data and performance evaluations beyond academics. To know more about LIMS, contact our sales rep at (512) 222-5730 for a detailed product demo.