This summer, the UniWellness team has been thinking a lot about student mental health. In the stillness of summer, college and university staff and administrators are busy preparing to welcome their students back to campus for the fall semester.
How can campus professionals support students during the change and stress of college? We have a few ideas.
Administrators, review the campus policies that involve mental health.
Does your school implement a strict attendance policy? Consider making exceptions or including some leniency for diagnosed mental health conditions. Treatment for many mental health conditions can include frequent counseling and/or psychiatry appointments, and mental health professionals often have packed schedules that don’t always align with students’ class schedules. You can relieve a lot of stress by allowing a few additional absences for these reasons.
Do students realize that they can receive accommodations for mental health conditions? Many students don’t know or understand the accommodation request process or realize that mental health conditions can be accommodated. Try to make this more clear on the school website or in the student handbook.
Counselors, plan outreach now before your caseloads fill up.
Does your counseling center sponsor an annual (or more frequent) event about mental health? It should! Show a mental health-related movie, host a mental health panel, or hold an open house for your counseling center. The point is to get students talking about mental health and to make them aware of the resources available to them on and off campus.
Is there a mental health-related club on campus? Many campuses have Active Minds and NAMI on Campus clubs to spread awareness about mental health. Co-sponsor, volunteer for, and promote their events. If an event discusses a heavy topic, have a counselor present to discuss on-campus resources and to support any student who feels overwhelmed by the content.
Is there anything around campus that directs students to the counseling center? If not, create some and distribute them! Put a counseling center flyer on at least one bulletin board in every building. Make mental health resource pamphlets to put on tables around campus. Include information about the counseling center in campus-wide event emails.
Faculty, become comfortable discussing mental health with students.
Do your syllabi include information about campus mental health resources? Assume that your students aren’t aware of these resources and inform them of what’s available to them. It’s just as important for students to learn about these resources as it is for them to know when the first assignment is due.
Do you require your students to complete public speaking assignments? Public speaking can be severely anxiety-inducing for many students. Consider giving students alternatives to public speaking assignments, like writing a paper or presenting directly to you outside of class.
Can you support your campus’ mental health-related club? If you love mental health, consider being the faculty sponsor of that club. If that commitment sounds too big, a small way to help is by advertising their club meetings and events in your classes. And if there isn’t a club like this on campus, help a student create one!
There are a lot of ways that college administrators and staff can support student mental health. This summer is a perfect time to make small changes that will help countless students on your campus.