Mental health: Colleges train faculty, create student-centered policies to advance success

As college students struggle with mounting mental health challenges that threaten their academic success and ability to thrive, U.S. colleges and universities are equipping faculty and staff to play a more central role in promoting students’ emotional health and retention, according to Inside Higher Ed

In addition to offering early mental health screening and more accessible accommodations for students with mental disorders, colleges are working to combat mental health stigma and preparing faculty to detect and support students with mental health challenges.

Related: Students dialing back their academic effort to protect their mental health,

survey finds >

Guidance for faculty helping students with mental health concerns

Even with heightened awareness around students’ mental health concerns, university faculty and staff still may feel unprepared to aid students in distress. A 2021 survey conducted by the Mary Christie Foundation, the Healthy Minds Network, Boston University, and others found that 79% of faculty reported having dealt with students with mental health issues. However, just 51% reported having a good idea of how to recognize students in emotional or mental distress.

Related: Religious groups on college campuses increasingly engaged with students’ wellness, mental health needs >

To help faculty and staff promote student wellness, nonprofit organizations and colleges are providing reference guides, workshops, and online and group training to ensure they can recognize when students are facing mental health or substance abuse issues and can intervene in productive ways.

The University of California system’s Red Folder Initiative, Harvard University’s Crimson Folders program, and the University of North Carolina system’s Mental Health First Aid Initiative all provide resources for faculty, staff, graduate teaching assistants, and teaching fellows on assisting students experiencing mental health issues.

Additionally, The Jed Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the emotional health of young adults, has created a free “Faculty Guide to Supporting Student Mental Health” to help educators identify students who need wellness services.

Faculty “are really well positioned to be part of the solution,” Erica Riba, director of school engagement for the Jed Foundation, tells Inside Higher Ed. “They often serve as the only and primary contact for students and can play a vital role in student retention and attainment.”

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