3 Ways Colleges Can Improve Student Mental Health on Campus

The effects of mental health on academic performance are well documented, and young adults struggling with stress, anxiety, depression and other mental disorders can be at a higher risk of falling behind their peers. To boost student retention, promote wellness and make campuses more inclusive and supportive, colleges must take proactive measures to increase student access to mental health resources.

Mental health in higher education is included in many schools’ wellness plans, but awareness and reach are often limited. There is also the difficulty of stigma, which can prevent students from reaching out to resources even if they know they are available. You can review a guide on the importance of student mental health in higher education, which suggests how you can develop a solution that bridges the gap between students and care to help going forward.

Create an Outreach Program

Mental health outreach programs through college counseling centers can put students directly in touch with those who are there to support and assist. Hiring and training student counselors to reach out to peers in their racial and cultural demographics can also help as many from different cultures and ethnicities can tend to have vastly different stigmas and impressions about counseling. For example, international students from Asian countries can be less likely to talk about mental health or openly seek therapy. Offering outreach programs in foreign languages spoken on campus can also increase engagement among minority groups in the student population.

It can also be beneficial to time programs and events during times students are more likely to experience stress. During exams week, the counseling center can hand out healthy snacks and water or cater a free dinner for students staying up late to study. It’s most beneficial to have a two-fold approach. The outreach programs should offer immediate reprieve for a targeted problem, such as a break from stressful studies, as well as open the doorway for future engagement with the appropriate counseling services.

Educate Staff

Few college faculty members come in contact with students more than professors and advisors. Educating these staff on the importance of mental health as well as warning signs and positive intervention strategies can be life-saving. In addition to understanding their pupils more, staff will also be able to make better decisions in their own teaching and advising behaviors to alleviate undue stress and improve communication.

It’s also critical for professors to understand how psychological well-being can affect learning. Every facet of a person’s well-being is influenced by their mental health, including their ability to concentrate, perform tasks and even understand material that’s presented to them. A drop in attendance and engagement, for example, can indicate a student is struggling. Rather than immediately writing them off as lazy, professors can recognize their difficulties and reach out.

Expand Treatment Options

Student counseling centers can only provide so much treatment, which is why access to nearby clinics and therapists is important in ongoing wellness. Students who visit the counseling center but demonstrate a need for more integrative or long-term services should be referred to a local professional. This care needs to be not only accessible but also affordable to a student whether they are covered by insurance or not.

One of the biggest barriers to treatment for those with both chronic and acute mental health problems is cost. Affordability for health services is a major challenge in America, and schools must find ways to narrow the gap between a person’s ability to pay and their need for effective treatment and support. Consider establishing a donation fundraiser that generates money for students who demonstrate a need for treatment but are unable to pay. By collaborating with nearby therapists who offer a sliding scale, those who need counseling can have their sessions covered entirely or at least partially by the fundraiser’s reserves.

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