Universities help to determine the quality of a student’s experience, but what role do they play in student’s mental well-being and health? The growing cases of homicides, shootings, and suicides in universities show that these institutions are no longer the happy community of independent learners and scholars they once were. Indeed research has found that students are less happy than the general population with everyone in three of them struggling with loneliness and depression and that suicide cases are on the rise. Students are not the only ones affected by mental health issues, academics and university staffs are also affected when you factor in the rising number of students they have to deal with increased enrollment.
Universities and other post-secondary institutions, therefore, have a long way to go in recognizing and handling issues of mental wellness and health as well as eliminating the stigma associated with it. Indeed this is for their own good because when mental issues are left untreated, they will certainly affect productivity, academic success, relationships and substance abuse. In the following article, we will explore the important role that universities play in student mental health and wellbeing and how they provide effective support for mental health challenges.
Roles of Universities in Student Mental Wellness.
- 1. Increasing Student Resilience.
Universities have a role in nurturing and increasing resilience in their students. This is because it has been found that students who are more resilient are more likely to cope better with the increased challenges and stresses that characterize university life. Universities can do this by re-engineering their services, programming and curriculum to equip students with basic knowledge about mental wellness. These must also equip students with ways to cope with depression, anxiety, and other mental ailments.
- 2. Provide 24/7 Mental Health Wellness Service.
Mental health wellness ought not to be 9 to 5 issues in universities. They have a great role to play in ensuring that mental health services are available 24/7 around the clock. This can be done by way of innovative approaches and community partnerships in order to guarantee that evolving and new needs are met. Universities should also ensure that these services are timed when students are much more susceptible to mental health issues such as prior and after the exam season.
- 3. Support and Funding for Peer-to-peer Counselling.
Universities have a prime role in supporting and increasing funding for peer-to-peer counseling. This because peer counseling has been found to be an effective way of providing students with social, emotional and practical help. Indeed students dealing with mental health challenges have been found to have a better personal connection with peers whom they deem to have faced similar challenges.
- 4. Provide Education and Awareness.
Universities have a great role to play in providing education and awareness about mental health and wellbeing to the student community. They need to come up with initiatives that create awareness on challenges and barriers facing mentally ill people and consequently breaking the stigma around mental health issues. To further this end, universities are supposed to enhance funding so that staff, students, faculty and the broad university community gets to learn about the supports and services available on campus.
- 5. Training on Campus.
It is essential that universities enhance on-campus training as the numbers of students dealing with mental health issues continues to steadily rise. Students key contact points such as academic advisers, class masters and faculties should be appropriately trained to be cognizant of the student struggling with mental health issues and how to they can help.
- 6. Support Students with a History of Mental Health Issues.
Students entering universities for the first time may come in with existing mental health issues that may be exacerbated by the pressures and demands of university life. This, therefore, requires that universities create channels whereby students feel safe and encouraged to declare any mental issues they may suffer from upon entry or application. Institutions are also supposed to make new students aware that support is available and that there is nothing wrong with asking for help or sharing their problems.