SUBJECT: Supporting Students' Mental Health
September 6th, 2022 at 4:59 PM
How can faculty support student's mental health?
UM-Dearborn has participated in the Healthy Minds Network annual survey study examining mental health, service utilization, and related issues among undergraduate and graduate students in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2021. Overall, research shows that the mental health of college students across the United States has been on a consistent decline, with an overall 135 percent increase in depression and 110 percent increase in anxiety from 2013 to 2021; the number of students who met the criteria for one or more mental health problems in 2021 had doubled from 2013.
What can we, as faculty and educators, possibly do to help attend to our students’ mental health and ameliorate their anxiety, depression and loneliness?
In answering that question, we recognize that first, we do not need to be therapists or have any formal training in counseling to contribute to our students’ well-being. Our job is not to diagnose or fix. Instead consider the following strategies:
- Let students know, at the start of the semester, that you are excited to embark on a learning journey with them. Let them know that their experiences, history, culture, and stories all matter to the work that you are doing together.
- Emphasize the human dimensions of the content of your course material. Let students know that knowledge comes with a history and a responsibility and that they are part of a long tradition of creating and preserving knowledge and information.
- Connect institutional support with the classroom. Consider a class visit from a member of the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) | University of Michigan-Dearborn team. Model asking questions like “Why do students struggle with getting help?” or “What are the signs of depression/anxiety?”
- Share your own story with students about how you have navigated the past few years of COVID, isolation, and disruptions in learning and working. This is not a recommendation to share personal health information but instead to let students know that you too have faced challenges and that you are someone they can trust with their vulnerabilities.
- Highlight how learning is meaningful to you and to members of the class. Ask students why they are taking your course and how their reasons relate to their dreams and the betterment of their community and the world. Throughout the semester, say, “Remind yourself why being here matters to you, your family and your community.” Invite them early in the semester to write their answers on a Post-it and place it on a wall (or on a Google jam board for online courses) and have everyone examine all the Post-its during a break.
- Finally, take care of yourself and find a network of support. Self-care is not a luxury but rather a way to help us metabolize pain, grief and traumas in order to continue to help others.
The CAPS team has also developed a UM-Dearborn Faculty Tool Kit and a YouTube playlist: Fostering a Campus Environment Supportive of Student Mental Health Faculty TookKit - YouTube.
Recommended strategies based on Pedagogy of Healing: Bearing Witness to Trauma and Resilience by Dr. Mays Imad, Inside Higher Ed, July 8, 2021. Dr Imad is a UM-Dearborn alum and a nationally recognized expert on trauma informed pedagogy. Dr. Imad gave the 2022 Digital Education Keynote and the Hub blogpost and recording of Dr. Imad’s keynote can be found here Recording Available! Dr. Mays Imad Keynote.
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