“Why are we ignoring our college students?” a frustrated colleague asked me last week. With so much focus on social-emotional learning, trauma-sensitive classrooms, and student well-being in K-12 schools, my friend argued passionately that young adults need our attention, too.
The challenge is clear. In 2018, researchers who surveyed almost 14,000 first-year college students (in eight countries) found that 35 percent struggled with a mental illness, particularly depression or anxiety. Here in the U.S., college students seeking mental health services report that anxiety is their #1 concern—and it is on the rise.
With demands for mental health support typically exceeding resources, how are colleges and universities addressing student well-being both inside and outside of the classroom? The emerging programs, new online resources, and innovative approaches to classroom teaching described below may encourage and inspire you—whether you’re an educator, staff member, or administrator who wants to prioritize student well-being at your school, or a concerned parent with a child heading off to college.
Increased awareness from the start
Colleges provide orientation sessions on drug and alcohol use, sexual violence prevention, and other student health and lifestyle topics, so why not address mental health more directly? Many colleges are beginning to proactively share mental health information with students during face-to-face orientation sessions.
Approaches vary from traditional presentations and panel discussions, to role plays, short videos, and student testimonials followed by small group discussions. Here, students learn how to recognize mental illness symptoms, where to find resources and support, and how to talk to friends who might be struggling.