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State of Mind in the College Classroom

There’s a mental health crisis on today’s college campuses. According to research conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness: one in four college students have a diagnosable illness, 40 percent do not seek help, 80 percent feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities, and 50 percent have become so anxious that they struggle in school.

How can faculty support students who are facing these issues? Showing students kindness goes a long way. Creating a classroom environment that exudes kindness and concern for students’ well-being sends a message to students that not only do we care about them, but we support them. Facilitating this type of classroom environment can enable students to take the necessary steps to approach their instructor when they are having a difficult time. A safe and supportive classroom environment helps students begin a conversation about the challenges they are dealing with during the semester. This in turn can lead faculty to assist a student in exploring support services available to them on campus, so they do not have to suffer in silence.

Faculty need to be willing to have an open dialogue with students about mental health issues and help students be mindful of their wellbeing. Well-being is not simply the absence of mental or physical illness. Rather, it is the more positive connotation of how well your life is going. Well-being encompasses, among other things, emotional health, vitality, satisfaction, life direction, ability to make a difference, the quality of one’s relationships, and living a good life (Brzucki, 2016). What is required in higher education today is a systematic process that helps students achieve their educational, career, and personal goals by concentrating on areas of talent and engagement, dreams and passions. Such a student success strategy will stimulate and support students in their quest for an enriched quality of life. That will, in turn, result in higher student satisfaction, increased retention and graduation rates, and, at the most fundamental level, young adults who are fulfilled and psychologically healthy (Brzycki, 2016).

Catherine Savini (2016) states the work of promoting mental health shouldn’t always be outsourced to the counseling center; it must be part of the fabric of our institutions, including our classrooms. In a 2011 survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, stigma was identified as the number one barrier to students seeking counseling (Savini, 2016). It is important in higher education to continue to take the necessary steps to reduce stigmatization of mental illness and students’ perceptions of seeking support. Through ongoing campus involvement, course discussions, and facilitating a supportive learning environment, students can begin to see that reaching out for the help they deserve is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Here are some approaches instructors can implement to support their students with mental health issues and stressors during the semester:

References:

Brzycki, H. (2016, January 5). Helping Faculty Members Help Improve Students’ Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2016/01/05/helping-faculty-members-help-improve-students-mental-health-essay

Savini, C. (2016, May 4). Are You Being Rigorous or Just Intolerant? Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/article/Are-You-Being-Rigorous-or-Just/236341

The Top Mental Health Challenges Facing Students. (n.d.)  Retrieved from https://www.bestcolleges.com/…/top-5-mental-health-problems-facing-college-student.

Stacy I. Roth is an adjunct instructor in the psychology department at Temple University.