In their 2019 study on the health of college students during the previous 12 months, the American College Health Association reported 8.4% of students being diagnosed or treated for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In the same study, they found 10% of students were diagnosed or treated for a psychiatric condition.
Over the last 20 years, university health staff have seen a dramatic increase in students reporting major depression. The incidence of suicidal thoughts and behavior is also on the rise.
Supporting the mental health of university staff and students must be a priority. Explore five things any university can do to ensure they’re meeting the mental health needs of the people who matter most.
Promote Mental Health Awareness
While it sounds simple, publicly acknowledging campus mental health must be done in a non-threatening way. Incorporating mental health awareness into student orientation lets students know how seriously the school looks at caring for the whole student. Instead of a traditional presentation, testimonials allow students (and staff) to share their struggles and successes with mental health issues.
An Ounce of Prevention
When universities take a reactive rather than a proactive approach to mental health, the focus rests on a small section of the student population—those already in crisis. Early intervention targets a broader portion of the university population. Why not offer free mental health screenings? Consider setting up a kiosk where students can participate in an informal screening. Depending on screening results, staff provides additional support and resources.
Access to Self-Help
A carefully curated library of online self-help courses on topics such as mindfulness, coping with stress, or managing fears and anxiety makes self-help as easy as a click. Individuals can choose which courses apply to them, and it’s all private.
Prevent Faculty and Staff Burnout
Students aren’t the only group on campus who deal with mental health issues. University staff members experience many of the same problems. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions, if unaddressed, the result is often staff burnout. Schools can help curb burnout by encouraging work-life balance. That may mean policy changes are ahead for your university!
Create a Wellness Culture
When a university offers a campus-wide culture that embraces health and well-being, it usually wears off on staff and students. Creating stress-free zones where students and staff can relax quietly is a start. When experiencing an event that impacts everyone on campus, such as the current health crisis, make a point of checking in with students and staff. Check-ins will help you and your team assess how well people are handling the crisis and can help you determine what resources will be most helpful.
Even if the world weren’t trying to work through a pandemic, students and university staff would still need help working through mental health issues. Universities doing their part to offer support are the drivers of a culture change toward healthier futures for students, faculty and staff on college campuses.