Mental health initiatives are building momentum across college campuses as schools gain valuable insight into how mental health affects students.
Although college students have dealt with mental health challenges for decades, its prevalence has gained increased attention throughout recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic helped shine a light on the number of students who struggle with their mental health, as well as how often and to what degree they occur. The American Psychological Association recently reported that more than 60% of students met the qualifications for at least one mental health condition during the 2020-2021 school year.
Providing students with the necessary mental health skills and resources can vastly increase their chances of achieving short- and long-term success. By proactively approaching students’ mental and emotional well-being, colleges can improve academic performance, increase graduation rates, promote self-awareness, and create a warm and welcoming environment.
Colleges should work intentionally to incorporate mental wellness principles such as positive psychology, mindfulness, and self-compassion into their curriculums and educational philosophies. By encouraging these practices, schools can equip students with the tools needed to manage stress, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
How to Proactively Support Mental Health Initiatives
There are several ways colleges can work to better their students’ mental and emotional well-being, and taking a proactive approach from the moment students step on campus has proven beneficial. Using a three-pillar approach centered on positive psychology, mindfulness, and self-compassion, schools can solidify students’ emotional preparedness for college and life post-graduation.
Positive psychology refers to the way that individuals, societies, and organizations flourish. Compared to traditional psychology, where the focus is on fixing what’s “wrong” with us, positive psychology aims to highlight our unique character strengths and the advantages they provide. The goal is to elicit the positive emotions that we have within ourselves – and in doing so, redirect our attention to avoid feelings of negativity.
Positive psychology can:
- Improve stress management for college students
- Enhance retention and mental awareness
- Promote personal well-being
- Help obtain higher grades
By creating a warm and welcoming environment, hosting campus-wide events to encourage student engagement, fostering relationships through extracurricular activities, and hosting workshops centered on personal growth and development, schools can implement positive psychology in a variety of ways. Schools should identify the needs of their students in order to determine what mental health skills they should prioritize.
Mindfulness refers to a person’s ability to connect with their core values and beliefs through self-reflection and self-awareness. Life’s daily stressors and challenges can easily cause self-care and compassion to fall by the wayside, making physical, emotional, and mental well-being less of a priority. By practicing mindfulness, students can focus on themselves and the present, rather than fixating on everything that can go awry in the future.
Some of the benefits associated with mindfulness include:
- Heightened self-awareness
- Improved sleep quality
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Increased memory, creativity, and innovation
- Strengthened coping mechanisms
Promoting mindfulness on college campuses doesn’t require the extensive use of resources. Simple efforts such as offering orientation programming or even a credit-bearing course that teaches students the fundamentals of practicing mindfulness, can have a proactive impact on mental health and well-being, especially for first-year students.
Self-compassion is the ability to be kind, caring, and forgiving towards ourselves and not just to those around us. Whether it’s a low test score, loss of a relationship, or failure to win a sporting event, there are many college experiences that can make students feel inadequate – this can be overwhelming even for the most well-adjusted students. Feelings of failure can lead to self-criticism or, in extreme cases, depression and anxiety.
High levels of self-compassion can turn things around and help:
- Improve motivation and drive
- Increase resilience to adversity
- Decrease levels of social-isolation
- Enhance optimism
Colleges can help students develop self-compassion and focus on positive emotions through a myriad of ways. At the forefront, professors can implement specific actions that focus on building character, confidence, and self-awareness. Examples include teaching students to erase the idea of perfection and focus on progress, believe in their ability to succeed, devote themselves to mindful living, and accept themselves as they are.
Implement Proactive Student Mental Health Efforts with U-Thrive
College is arguably one of the most difficult transitions in a student’s life. Whether they’re adjusting to being away from home, establishing new social networks, partaking in challenging academic programs, or exploring new opportunities, they’re bound to feel overwhelmed at times. However, colleges can take proactive and preventative measures to help mitigate feelings of anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues that students may face.
Implementing mental health initiatives focusing on positive psychology, mindfulness, and self-compassion can help colleges support students’ physical, mental, and emotional well-being. These initiatives not only aid students in obtaining their degrees, but they pave the way for an easier integration into society post-graduation. Furthermore, colleges can limit the number of student drop-outs and create a positive and memorable experience to look back on.
U-Thrive Educational Services’ courses and resources arm colleges with the tools they need to successfully develop and improve mental health efforts across their campuses. With programming developed in collaboration with more than 35 leading authors, researchers, educators, and psychologists from numerous institutions across the country, U-Thrive can help you proactively support student mental health in the most effective and efficient way.
Contact U-Thrive Educational Services today to learn more about how we can assist you in helping students build confidence and overcome mental health challenges from the moment they step on campus.