Sixty percent of prospective college students say mental health services are very important when deciding the school to attend. Before the pandemic, that same outlook was only shared half that amount by students. With this issue, increasing mental health disorders affect students’ academic achievement. Therefore, colleges and universities need to invest in, advocate for, and address the mental health needs of college students.
Why Mental Health Services?
Addressing mental health helps increase student outcomes, raise enrollment and retention rates, prevent suicide, and meet a school’s mission goals and economic needs. Higher-ed leaders consider the following five strategies to improve mental health for both students and institutions.
1.) Partner With Students to Provide Optimal Mental Health Services
The first step is to assess students’ mental health needs. This process should be part of incoming students’ initial orientation. Additionally, follow-ups should be regular throughout a student’s school tenure. Schools conduct needs assessments and use formal mental health assessment tools. Thus, they also ask students to complete survey questionnaires, formal interviews, and informal interviews. Overall, these inquiries aid college leaders, so they can seek out, listen to, and respond to students to tailor mental health services to their needs.
2.) Empower College Students With Mental Health Best Practices
Next, schools actively educate college students on ways to proactively manage their mental health. They can create a campus-wide culture that focuses on nutrition, regular exercise, stress and time management, and healthy habits. Besides that, higher-ed leaders can encourage students to keep a daily journal of their emotions to help them know when to seek help. Moreover, they encourage students to surround themselves with positive peers, practice mindfulness, get involved, and avoid drug and alcohol use.
3.) Reduce the Stigma of Mental Health Issues
Importantly, higher ed leaders need to normalize mental health needs. They should talk regularly about mental health so that it is as ordinary as caring for one’s physical health. Schools will accomplish this goal by making mental health a regular part of their services and conversations. Therefore, it assures students that getting help is okay and normal for mental health concerns.
4.) Forge a Campus-Wide Approach to Mental Health for College Students
For the provision of services, institutions should invest in well-made mental health services when meeting the needs of their students. Higher-ed leaders can provide a campus-wide approach through education and awareness programs, faculty training, peer support, and mental health curriculum. They should invest in suicide prevention, on-campus counseling, and technology-based mental health services. Furthermore, colleges and universities can form partnerships with essential outside organizations. These various efforts should focus on the care, promotion, and prevention of mental health issues for college students.
5.) Ensure Equity and Access for College Mental Health Services
Finally, higher-ed institutions should ensure mental health services are affordable and accessible to all students. They should meet the needs of a diverse population of students, especially student groups who may have unique burdens and barriers to care. These often include LGBTQ, international, first-generation, and low-income students. It also includes students of color and those who already have a mental health diagnosis. Additionally, schools must reduce the caseloads of mental health clinicians to ensure students do not have to wait for services. Adding digital options that include 24/7 telehealth services will help resolve these issues.
In sum, more college students are reviewing the quality of mental health services provided by their schools. College leaders promote health practices like mindfulness and decrease the stigma for students seeking help. Moreover, college leadership ensures a campus-wide approach that addresses equity and access to mental health services.