Mental health and wellness for students is more than a hot topic in higher education — it’s a necessity. At a time when 80% of students report feeling stress on a daily basis, how can college and university leaders provide support and resources for students who need mental health support and are seeking resources for help?
A recent survey found that more than half of student affairs professionals think about student mental health “a great deal.” But only 34% consider the mental health of their student population to be “good.” While much of higher education’s focus is centered on the mental health of students, there is still work to be done to support the needs of students and provide what they need to be academically successful.
Mental Health Issues Impacting Academic Performance
While some students can manage the stress that comes with being a college student, there are many students who have their academic performance negatively impacted by mental health issues. The American College Health Association discovered that, during the 2017-2018 academic year, students reported stress (34%), anxiety (27%) and depression (18%) disrupted their academic performance in some way, including causing them to receive a lower grade on an exam or an important project, receiving a lower grade in a course, receiving an incomplete or dropping a course; or experiencing a significant disruption in thesis, dissertation, research, or practicum work.
Unfortunately, 75% of students suffering from depression do not seek help, and 44% of students report experiencing symptoms of depression, which can lead some students to contemplate suicide (the second most common cause of death among college students). Similarly, a 2019 American College Health Association study found that:
- 87% of college students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do.
- 66% felt overwhelming anxiety.
- 56% felt things were hopeless.
- 13% seriously considered suicide.
These findings are reinforced by the observations of Dr. Jan Hall, executive director of mental health at TimelyMD. In her examination of the needs of higher education institutions, she notes that the preliminary findings indicate that anxiety and depression are the two main mental health concerns on college and university campuses.
Mental Health Awareness for Students, Faculty and Staff
For higher education faculty and staff, the ability to identify the signs of mental health issues — like stress, depression and anxiety — can help advocate for a student’s mental health. Depression is more than just feeling sad. A lack of interest in activities and negative changes in academic performance are also signs that a student may be struggling with his or her mental health. Recently, TimelyMD shared ways to encourage and motivate students who may need to seek help from a mental health professional.
Beyond these individual student warning signs that mental health may be an issue, there are some campus-wide events and indicators that could signal a need for additional mental health support. According to Dr. Hall, some of these campus-wide events and indicators include:
- The death of a student, faculty or staff (particularly in the event of a suicide).
- A significant change that requires adjustment by the entire student population, like the events of COVID-19.
- A waiting list or increase in counseling center appointments.
- An overall decrease in grade point averages on the campus.
In addition to on-campus counseling centers clinics, higher education leaders can provide students with information about off-campus mental health resources. For example, online support groups like Mental Health America and Active Minds provide students with the ability to discuss their mental health concerns with peers and develop a community.
To raise mental health awareness, Dr. Hall suggests:
- Making students aware of the mental health resources available to them.
- Encouraging students, faculty and staff to take the time to understand the warning signs of mental health issues.
- Enhancing access to mental health support through services like telehealth, which can provide 24/7 support for a variety of mental health concerns.
TimelyMD offers colleges and universities 24/7 access to mental health support for students. In collaboration with on-campus healthcare resources, TimelyMD ensures that students are able to access care when and where they need it, even in after-hours situations. Contact us to learn more about how telehealth can support student health and well-being.