Keeping students healthy, well, and engaged throughout their academic journey to graduation is one of the major challenges for higher education. This was true before the COVID-19 pandemic, and college and university leaders today must continue to mental health crisis and determine how best to support student mental health on and off campus. TimelyMD’s Gen Zstressed Series there was a recent panel discussion on student engagement during the mental health crisis hosted by the Boston Globe’s Laura Krantz. The panelists included Dr. Beth Rushing, president of the Appalachian College Association; Robin Darcangelo, Senior Dean of Student Affairs at Napa Valley College; and Alex Henoch, a student at the University of Wisconsin.
Students starting their college careers in 2020 did not experience the regular academic year or school life they expected. Some schools extended spring break by a week in 2020 just to permanently send students home to a new learning environment for the semester (and several more). There is now a new standard for students and higher education leaders—one where digital support services are necessary, expected by students, and can impact campus enrollment.
The question for university representatives is as follows: What strategies can ensure your campus is helping students support their health and well-being as the mental health crisis continues?
Strategies to promote student mental health
During the Gen Zstressed panel discussion, Henoch said one problem is that many college students feel their mental health issues are too small to talk about. This can especially happen when a student chooses to compare their situation to what someone else is going through. He noted that this is unhealthy thinking. To help remove this stigma, Henoch discussed the importance of increasing access to mental health services so students feel they can seek support no matter how insignificant something may seem.
Mental health support is not universal. Each person’s situation and experiences are unique and personal to them. Likewise, it is important to think about how colleges and universities can be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to student mental health care. Adding mental health initiatives or changing policies to support student health and well-being should be something that is regularly considered rather than a reactive measure.
Strategies to keep students engaged
Each student is unique and so is the way they will deal with their own mental health. On-campus resources are helpful for many students, but not every student wants to go to a counseling center in person. Or campus health care resource hours may not work with a student’s schedule to speak with a school counselor in person.
- Communicate beyond the website by posting flyers around campus, sending emails, sharing on social media, and letting faculty members talk about what’s happening in the classroom. This will help ensure consistent messaging about mental health resources and services for students is clear.
- Work with students by listening to them, allowing them to provide feedback, and working to implement that feedback.
- Work to build a campus culture that encourages students to prioritize their mental health and seek care.
- Log in and be there to listen and support students and the campus community.
- Facilitate mental health days and build trust with students by allowing them to take these days when needed.
Keeping both students and teachers engaged after the stress the pandemic has caused since 2020 can seem impossible. However, working to create a campus culture where students feel comfortable enough to talk about mental health and seek the help they need is a step in the right direction. The mental health crisis is prevalent in all segments of higher education. From state universities and private institutions to HBCUs and community colleges, now is the time to prioritize your campus strategy for student engagement, health and wellness.
To learn more about student engagement strategies for your campus, watch the Gen Zstressed panel discussion which explores ways to improve student retention and engagement by better promoting student well-being. AND contact TimelyMD discover how a 24/7 virtual health and wellness platform for your campus can be a key part of your student engagement strategy that promotes self-care and supports student success