Why Institutions Should Focus on Campus Mental Health Initiatives

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Julia Sachs
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Mental health can affect a student’s performance and success both during their studies and later on in life. Many schools around the globe have services in place to help students with their mental health, but there is always room for improvement. Institutions may also want to consider making changes to their mental health initiatives during and after COVID-19.

There’s been a mental health crisis among college students since the pre-pandemic days, but the situation has only worsened. Before the pandemic, one in three students “meet the criteria for a clinically significant mental health problem.” Now, 88% of students said they believe there is a mental health crisis on college campuses. When it comes to individual students themselves, more than half stated they felt more stressed in 2022 than in 2021, and nearly two-thirds intended on seeking support for their own mental health problems.

Campus Mental Health Initiatives Today

Most campuses have mental health services, but the question of the effectiveness and coverage of these services is an important one. Due to the increasing demand for mental health resources, many have been outpaced by the crisis. The most common of these services is student counseling. This service is usually offered on campus grounds, though it is not uncommon for the effort to be outsourced to other local hubs. Crisis hotlines are also common and are intended for those who need help immediately.

Mental health services, while common, are not usually enough for the average college campus. These systems should be all-encompassing of genders, race, economic level, and background. Simply stacking on top of simple counseling services is not enough; representation is vital.

Improving Mental Health Services on Campus

The first issue most campuses have with their mental health services is cost. Even a hundred dollars can be hard for a cost-stretched student. A small barrier is still a barrier nonetheless, so making these services free circumvents this issue entirely. Reallocate tuition dollars – don’t simply add it as an extra mandatory fee for students.

Counseling centers are not the only locale that needs improvement—outreach is necessary as well. A student too busy and stressed over schoolwork may not consider assisting themselves if they have had no knowledge of what is available, or if they don’t know how to recognize symptoms. Syllabi for classes should contain directions for mental health services; campus orientation and tours should visit counseling centers and other organizations that would assist these students. Finally, reducing any form of stigma is absolutely necessary. Allow those who have used these services to express how it helped them, giving other students a more personal look into these often foreign services.

Small Changes on Campus

Another level of work can be put into combating social issues at a student level. LGBTQ+ and BIPOC are affected more often by mental health problems due to discrimination. Encouraging a sense of belonging on campus for all minority groups should be a priority for campuses. Clubs should be formed around these groups to give estranged students a place for them to belong; counselors should come from varied ethnic groups and backgrounds to provide more personalize care for students.

All students should feel protected and safe on campus. Harassment should be taken seriously by campus police and responded to in a productive manner. Stalking should be considered a serious threat and not left alone, and campus police should be properly educated on handling threats while minimizing harm on their end. Discrimination should be actively combatted wherever it is found.

Why Mental Health Matters

Beyond the mental health crisis, campuses have financial reasons to provide adequate mental health services. A suffering student may eventually drop out, and if things only worsen over time, then the college may eventually suffer a financial hit. In addition, colleges that directly combat the mental health crisis will be seen in a brighter light, possibly attracting more students to attend in the future. As profit-driven institutions, campuses should strive to retain their customers to the best of their abilities.

it comes from effective and extensive counseling services, organizations to give minorities a place to belong, fighting against injustice, or providing other services that would provide peace of mind, campuses should be working against the mental health crisis. Higher education is a prelude to the workforce, and if students spend their entire college years suffering due to mental health issues, then they will continue to suffer in the workforce. This eventually becomes a downward spiral with negative workplaces, only causing more and more problems. A successful mental health program on campus will lead to more successful students later in life.  

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