How Colleges & Universities Can Take a Campus-Wide Approach to Support College Student Mental Health

College is often the first time a person is on their own. They’re responsible for their own schedule, activities, social life, and education and oftentimes, the effects of mental health on students can go unnoticed. Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress are becoming increasingly common among students in today’s society. Therefore, it’s imperative that universities prioritize mental health activities for college students.

According to a recent study, over 60% of college students meet the criteria for at least one mental health problem – and this number has been on the rise over the last decade. Offering mental and emotional wellness programs and curriculum is one way to improve mental health in college students. Supporting students’ emotional well-being improves academic performance, persistence, and graduation rates. Successful school-based mental health programs involve a campus-wide approach, providing resources beyond traditional counseling centers. 

The initiatives discussed in this article can help campuses improve the effects of mental health on students.

The Benefits of Supporting Students’ Emotional Well-Being

Prioritizing mental health helps people lead an engaged, meaningful, and fulfilling life. By creating a culture of wellness on campus, colleges can help students manage their mental health to thrive in college and beyond. College likely won’t be the only stressor someone experiences in life. College campuses can set students up for success by teaching them how to manage stress in a healthy way. This will help them continue to live a healthy lifestyle beyond their college years.

Implementing mental health activities for college students also has a positive economic impact on universities. Healthy Minds Network’s Return on Investment Calculator suggests that a $20,000 investment into proactive mental health support will not only help retain nearly 300 students but also produce approximately $3.1 million in tuition revenue. From a financial perspective, this is less than the average cost of one student’s tuition and housing – the return on investment (ROI) impact of investing in mental health activities is significant.

How to Improve Mental Health in College Students

The following successful school-based mental health programs give students the resources to thrive in college, not just survive.

Integrate Mental and Emotional Wellness Curriculum Into Academic Courses

Integrating a mental and emotional wellness curriculum into the current academic curriculum is one of the most effective ways to create a culture of wellness. Topics can include: 

  • Stress management 
  • Coping skills 
  • Emotional regulation 
  • First-year transition skills 
  • Student success

These topics will give students the help they need to develop skills to manage their mental health and thrive in college and beyond.

Offer Mental Health and Wellness Workshops

Mental health workshops can be the added support someone needs to focus on their mental health. These programs can cover subjects like: 

  • Mindfulness meditation 
  • Relaxation techniques 
  • Healthy eating habits 
  • Positive lifestyle choices
  • Building Resilience
  • Self-Compassion

Mental health workshops can also be incorporated into orientation programs, student organizations, and residence life activities to normalize discussions around mental health and reduce stigma. 

On-Campus Peer Support Groups

Universities can provide as many programs as they want, but peer encouragement is one of the best ways to get students to take mental health seriously. Peer support groups, like Active Minds, can be an effective way to support college students’ mental health.

Support groups create a sense of community and belonging, something often lacking when a person has mental health issues. Improving the feeling of belonging is crucial to improving students’ emotional well-being.

Mental Health Awareness Campaigns

Mental health awareness campaigns educate students about the importance of: 

  • Prioritizing their mental health 
  • Supporting their peer’s mental health 
  • Reducing the stigma around mental health issues

    The stigma is there’s something wrong with you if you struggle with depression or anxiety. In reality, it’s a common thing to experience, with up to 42% of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression. The problem comes when someone doesn’t seek professional help when experiencing negative emotions. Learning to cope with feelings of depression or anxiety will help maintain a positive mental state. Colleges must reiterate the fact that asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of.

    A campus-wide mental health awareness campaign can include anything from workshops, special events, guest speakers, or social media campaigns. The goal is to promote mental health awareness and encourage students to seek assistance.

    Mental Health Education and Training for Faculty and Staff

    It’s essential to educate faculty and staff members about mental health issues and equip them with the necessary skills to support students effectively. Colleges can provide training programs and workshops to teach faculty and staff how to identify signs of distress, provide initial support, and refer students to appropriate resources. This training can help create a network of caring individuals who are knowledgeable about mental health and can offer assistance to students when needed. Additionally, colleges can establish clear protocols and communication channels for faculty and staff to report concerns and seek guidance on supporting students’ mental health.

    How to Help College Students with Mental Health Issues

    Although increased awareness of the mental health crisis among college students has begun to normalize conversations around this important topic, supporting college student mental health cannot be the sole responsibility of counseling centers. In order to solve this crisis, students’ mental and emotional well-being must be addressed throughout the entire college campus. U-Thrive Educational Services de-stigmatizes the discussion of mental health as a “clinical” issue by mainstreaming it into the curriculum/co-curriculum as an integral, “normal” element of a college education.

    Contact U-Thrive Educational Services today to learn how to bring our proactive mental and emotional wellness curriculum to your campus.

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