* This post was originally featured on The OOHLALA Blog.
Our students deal with a lot of stress, anxiety, and social pressures. And they’re not alone. According to a report cited by a Huffpost College article, the number of students who report suffering from depression, anxiety and social anxiety, is rising. These students need guidance to develop the skills necessary to cope with their mental health issues.
Here are some tips to help students utilize mental health services on campus and set themselves up for success:
Use Mental Health First Aid
Every student affairs professional should take a Mental Health First Aid course. This training helps you to gauge the intensity of someone’s depression, substance use, anxiety etc. It also trains you on what to listen for and what to ask.
One of the things this training provides is “mental health literacy.” It teaches you to define terms like “depression,” “anxiety,” “trauma,” and “substance abuse.” Through understanding these terms you will be better prepared to assess your student’s needs.
The Mental Health First Aid course also provides tips on how to have conversations with students so that they feel safe and able to open up. For instance, they recommend trying to avoid “why” questions. “Why” questions often come off as accusatory, or judgmental. Put your students at ease by not questioning their reasoning or actions. Be patient, welcoming, and empathetic.
Offer Personal Support
Some students won’t want to go alone to get help, or just don’t know what the experience is going to be like. The more you can ease their concerns, the better. Perhaps go with them or explain how a typical session will go. If you know any of the counselors you can give a personal recommendation or help the student figure out who they’d be most comfortable talking to.
The more we can personally guide students towards connecting with mental health resources, the better. The trust you’ve built through assessing where they are, listening to them, and validating them will help you guide and support them as they take the emotional risk of connecting with a mental health professional.
Follow Up Afterwards
It’s important for us to continue to support our students as they connect with mental health support. You should check in regularly to make sure everything is going well and to see if there is anything more you can do to help.
Troubleshooting the Mental Health Process:
If the person or place they’re going to isn’t a good fit:
Help them find someone or somewhere else to go.
If they’re having difficulty opening up:
Explain how important this process is and how much help it can be.
Help them set goals for their discussions so the student feels more prepared going in.
Students might give up if they feel frustrated. Being there to support them in getting counseling is important. You need to help your students commit to the process so they can get its full benefit.
It’s important that the student receives continued validation and recognition for making the effort. It can be emotionally exhausting to put yourself out there and to work through some perhaps deep seated emotional baggage. Make sure your students know that you support them.
Getting mental health support is a great undertaking for anyone. Students, especially are particularly vulnerable due to the amount of independence they’re currently figuring out. You play an important role in helping students. It’s up to you to communicate the value of mental health resources; connect students to these resources; and ensure the process is going smoothly for them. The stresses of modern college life are certainly a heavy burden, but with the right support, every student should be able to shoulder them and succeed.