Zoom school, social isolation, and constant worry over a deadly pandemic—it’s no surprise that mental health has been at the forefront of the national conversation around education for the last year and a half. Undergraduate and graduate students are uniquely situated in this time, simultaneously dealing with social isolation and Zoom fatigue while also facing the mental strain of losing the in-person student experience they’d envisioned for their college years.
With an increasing awareness of mental health among younger generations, many colleges and universities have stepped up to the plate in offering a robust slate of mental health support for their students. And schools should be loud and proud in communicating those offerings, and the fact that they value talking about and supporting students’ mental health journeys. By showcasing mental health offerings appropriately on their sites, universities can communicate to students and parents that they’re here to support all students, especially important in an era when students are looking for schools to implement practices that actively support diversity and inclusion. Here are a few specific ideas for how to best communicate your school’s mental health offerings via the university’s digital presence.
Be proactive with first-gen students
For first-generation populations, colleges should be placing an emphasis on proactively reaching out to students who are often undergoing a class transition, and whose parents may not know how to navigate these institutions. It’s not enough to simply offer on-campus support (through talk therapy, psychiatry referrals, support groups, and other avenues) and have a mental health page on their website; schools need to go above and beyond in reaching out to first-gen or at-risk students to clearly communicate what is available, how to access treatment, and the fact that this support is often offered at no extra cost. Providence College does a nice job of communicating directly to first-gen students on its website.
Showcase multiple avenues
When it comes to the offerings themselves, forward-thinking universities are typically offering multiple avenues to seek mental health support—such as online therapy, in person one-on-one therapy, off-campus options, and more. Offering a diverse array of options will help meet the needs of different student demographics on campus. For example, social pressures in different communities may mean that a student doesn’t want to be seen walking in and out of a counseling center, so it can often be beneficial to offer digital options (which also are key if a large segment of students aren’t learning on campus, as we’ve seen with the Covid-19 pandemic). Students should be clearly made aware of these different options and how each might be a good fit for them. The Harvard counseling site offers a few different avenues of how students can get started, including workshops on topics like emotions and mindfulness.
Spotlight on well-being
Finally, forward-thinking colleges and universities are also communicating to their students the importance of well-being, including preventive health measures to support students even before mental health issues crop up. (Learn more here about how George Mason is supporting students through a holistic lens with efforts like yoga, mindfulness, and support for healthy relationships.) Does your school offer free or low-cost fitness classes? How about healthy dining hall options or campus affinity groups? Most universities would likely fit those criteria, so it’s a matter of framing them as part of an overall campus well-being initiative to show how the school is supporting its students’ mental health.
This may seem like a lot to communicate, but they’re likely programs and services that your school already offers—and the time is right to take the opportunity to showcase your school’s mental health and wellbeing offerings to students and parents.
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