The list of college campuses that are reversing course on returning to fully in-person classes continues to grow. As a recent TimelyMD survey revealed, the top causes of stress and anxiety for college students are all related to the uncertainty surrounding the future of their education. With many schools welcoming students back to campus only to be forced to shift to online learning again, this uncertainty is not going away. In fact, 60% of students indicate they are struggling with remote learning. With that in mind, what is the impact on student mental health, and how can higher education institutions prioritize caring for student health and wellness?
Another recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), discovered that individuals in the traditional age group for college students (18-24) have been hit particularly hard by mental health issues (in comparison to other age groups) during the pandemic.
The most alarming revelation from this CDC survey is that one in four (25.5%) in the 18-24 age group said they had seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days.
Clearly, the student health and wellness is under duress. While student mental health is often listed as a priority or top concern among higher education leaders, it’s critical that your campus take actionable steps to support students now, as the pandemic continues to impact schools across the country. Active Minds recently shared its position statements on recommendations for how to do this. Use these three key highlights to inform the steps your campus takes next.
1. Drive innovation in mental health services.
The status quo in mental health services is not enough. While the stigma of seeking support is diminishing, many students still don’t feel comfortable with seeking support through traditional methods. Suggestions from Active Minds include offering:
- Discussion and support groups.
- Continued telehealth and other technology-based options.
- Peer support.
- Education and programming that normalizes post-pandemic and racism-related grief and the recovery process.
- Student-driven reflection activities.
- Self-care practices.
- Proactive, positive mental health techniques.
If your campus needs assistance in creating a comprehensive strategy for campus mental health, one place to start is The Jed Foundation (JED). This organization offers programs with proven results to create positive system changes that support and protect student mental health.
2. Don’t forget about staff and faculty.
As mentioned before, higher education faculty and staff are on the frontlines of student care. So, training is critical to ensure that faculty and staff understand how to recognize the signs of mental health issues and can triage students to the appropriate resources. However, another consideration is the health and wellness of your entire campus, including staff and faculty. The stressors of a school year and supporting students are only magnified under the pressure of remote learning.
What resources are available to support this population of your campus? How are expectations being adjusted to ease pressure? Active Minds noted that campus mental health professionals are in a difficult situation, managing an increased demand for services. Be sure that when your campus is planning for mental health resources that the entire campus population has the resources it needs to be successful and feel supported.
3. Continue to enhance access to care through telehealth.
In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Andrew Lee, president of the American College Counseling Association, said that “continuing telehealth options for counseling will be important as the pandemic continues.” Similarly, in its position statement, Active Minds recommends that colleges and universities “maintain telehealth services and widely promote them.” TimelyMD’s survey of college students found that 75% of students are open to utilizing telehealth to receive mental health care. In fact, 20% of students indicated they “definitely would” consider using telehealth for mental health support. Of the students who had used telehealth recently for care, 65% reported high satisfaction levels with the telehealth experience.
As TimelyMD CEO Luke Hejl said in Politico, “We will see long-lasting positive effects of telehealth services, particularly mental health. [This pandemic] has forever changed human and student behavior to think through the lens of immediate access to medical and mental health care.” With students again being forced into remote learning, communication with students about how to access resources is key. In the spring, 55% of students reported not knowing where to go for care. That number must dramatically increase, and telehealth is an easy, effective way to enhance access to care.
If your campus is exploring innovative mental health solutions to meet the needs of your students, contact us to learn how telehealth meets your students wherever they are, with the care they need.