Mental health issues are a serious, pressing issue on campus today — and one that administrators and leaders need to address with a full arsenal of resources to assist students, faculty, and themselves when needed. That’s why we at The Center for Higher Education Leadership decided to dedicate an entire issue of our newsletter, Higher Ed Connects, to the topic of mental health. Shelley Seale provides a round-up of resources and tools to assist higher ed leaders to successfully address this issue.
There is an unprecedented demand for counseling services on campuses, with the number of college students visiting such centers increased by 30% between 2009 and 2015 — at a time when enrollment grew by less than 6%. As colleges try to meet the growing demand for mental health services, some students are slipping through the cracks. Our articles in this edition of Higher Ed Connects include:
In addition to those deep-dive articles to help you successfully address mental health issues at your educational institution, we also wanted to take a look at various resources that exist for higher ed institutions and their leaders.
Brian Malmon was a smart, popular, and fun student through high school and college. In the beginning of his freshman year at Columbia University, he started struggling with depression and psychosis, but concealed his symptoms from everyone around him for three years. In the middle of his senior year, he returned home and began receiving treatment for what was later diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder. His underlying depression was left untreated and only worsened as he continued to hide his distress from his friends.
A year and a half later, on March 24, 2000, Brian took his own life.
His younger sister, Alison, was wrapping up her freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania at the time. Brian was her only sibling. “The depression had created a space for him where he felt like he was the only one, that all of it was his fault,” she says. Alison recognized that Brian’s story is the story of thousands of young people who suffer in silence; who, despite their large numbers, think they are totally alone.
Following Brian’s suicide, Alison founded Active Minds to change the conversation about mental health. Active Minds is a national organization for mental health advocacy with about 450 campus chapters around the country.
JED Campus is a signature program of The Jed Foundation (JED) designed to guide schools through a collaborative process of comprehensive systems, program and policy development with customized support to build upon existing student mental health, substance use and suicide prevention efforts. JED Campuses embark on a four-year strategic partnership with JED that not only assesses and enhances the work that is already being done, but helps to create positive, systemic change in the campus community.
Read about how George Mason University is successfully using JED Campus in this article.
JED Campus uses proprietary assessments to understand each school’s programs, systems and challenges, then provides feedback and recommendations based on the responses and student data to form a strategic plan. JED Campuses are provided with ongoing support and technical assistance from a dedicated advisor, and have the opportunity to share information and resources with other schools in the program.
A complete list of details about the program can be found here.
This online resource for college mental health provides an anonymous and confidential place where college students can be comfortable searching for the information they need regarding emotional health. ULifeline is a project of The Jed Foundation, a leading organization working to protect the emotional health of America’s college students, and was developed with input from leading experts in mental health and higher education. The Jed Foundation provides ULifeline to all colleges and universities free of charge, regardless of the size or type of institution. Currently, more than 1,500 colleges and universities participate in the ULifeline Network.
Size-inclusive model and mental health advocate, Hunter McGrady, shares her mental health story with The Jed Foundation (JED) and comedian, Liz Miele.
College Re-Entry helps academically engaged 18-30 year-old college students, who withdraw from their studies due to mental health challenges, return to college and successfully reach their educational goals.
Ambar Paredes dropped out of Syracuse University in 2017, after her father died in the summer of her freshman year. “Between my grief and psychosis, I started to isolate myself the fall of my second year,” Ambar says. “The reality that was going on in my head was completely different from the one that was actually real.”
Fortunately, Scholarship Plus managed Ambar’s scholarship and recommended College Re-Entry to her. The program worked for her, she says, because it’s “practice.”
“Everything in life needs practice,” Ambar says. “School is one of the main things you need to practice for. I feel like this is a place where I got to learn the ropes of school again from a different perspective. It’s just a way to truly understand how to be a better student.”
The 14-week College Re-Entry program (15 hours per week) helps students build and implement an action plan to get back to college and develop capacities to do well, both in and outside of the classroom. Small cohorts of students work together to regain academic skills, restore physical wellness, and reclaim social community. Students have the opportunity to work with expert instructors in classes aimed at introducing and strengthening practical skills needed to succeed, and with one-on-one coaches.
The Higher Education Mental Health Alliance (HEMHA)
This organization exists to provide leadership through a partnership of organizations to advance college mental health. HEMHA affirms that the issue of college mental health is central to student success, and therefore is the responsibility of higher education. Accordingly, HEMHA will provide leadership to:
Think about college mental health issues at a strategic level
Identify and share mental health resources
Promote full community engagement in the mental health continuum of care
Define the role of advocacy in mental health
Support and disseminate evidence-based practice
The American College Health Association (ACHA) is one of HEMHA’s partners. One of its programs is the nationally recognized research survey, National College Health Assessment, that provides current, relevant, and precise data about students’ health habits, behaviors, and perceptions. ACHA also provides a host of other resources at its website.
This Way Up
Designed by Professor Gavin Andrews and his team at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Australia, This Way Up helps students to better understand the emotions they are experiencing, connect with a clinician who can supervise their progress, and take free self-help courses online (such as “Coping with Stress,” “Intro to Mindfulness,” or “Managing Insomnia”). The resource also offers mobile apps and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that is delivered via the internet.
With so many mental health apps out there to choose from, it can be overwhelming to select the right one — especially for an individual already suffering from depression, anxiety, or stress. As well, the “right” answer is very subjective, and is different depending upon each individual’s situation and needs.
That’s where PsyberGuide comes in. The non-profit project aims to lead the field of digital mental health forward and help people use technology to live a mentally healthier life. Through rigorous evaluation of technology and promotion of scientific best practices, it helps to guide the science, practice, development, and use of digital mental health tools in various settings. This improves access to mental health resources for those who lack access to traditional support, and helps people explore how technology can be used to improve their wellbeing.
At least 350 colleges utilize this online simulation program that helps students learn how to talk to friends who may be suffering emotionally, and direct them to appropriate resources. When students enter the Kognito virtual campus, they learn more about mental health from a handful of virtual students, and can talk with a virtual student in distress. After trying out several different approaches, they learn the most effective ways to respond to their virtual peer.
For the past 10 years, Kognito has been a pioneer in the study of new approaches to build and assess the capacity of people to lead real-life conversations that result in measurable changes in social, emotional, and physical health.
Do you know of a resource that other higher education leaders should be aware of? Please list it in the comments below and help other CHEL members address mental health on their campuses.
About the author
Shelley Seale is the co-founder and Director of Content for The Center for Higher Education Leadership. She is an award-winning journalist, author and editor based in Austin, Texas, and a graduate of St. Edward’s University with dual degrees in Journalism and Cultural Psychology. She has written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian, The Week, The Telegraph, The Business Journals, International News Media Association, The Coaching Connector, Texas School Business and numerous university publications. Shelley is a member of the American Society of Business Publication Editor, and can be reached at shelleyseale.com or LinkedIn.