The pandemic has triggered a crackdown on student mental health. But when diving deep into the data, finding out just how strongly the pandemic affected students overall becomes a tangled affair. A survey by Inside Higher Ed reports that 65% of students rate their mental health as “fair” or “poor.” Another from Active Minds, a mental health advocacy group, states that 80% of responding students say the pandemic negatively impacted their mental health.
And yet early reports seem to say student suicide rates actually declined last year. Still another survey put out by Penn State reports that of all the students who sought assistance for mental health last year, two thirds of them did so for reasons unrelated to the pandemic.
According to these statistics, it seems students as a group are shouldering the woes of the pandemic better than they are being given credit. But a high level of resiliency within a group, doesn’t mean that mental heath should be sidelined as a focus. According to Elisa Bolton, director of psychological and counseling services at UNH, the biggest message that colleges need to send in the post-pandemic world is that they are able to tackle any problem presented by its student body.
Mental health, and wellness in general, is something that can take many forms, which then means there are many different avenues colleges can take to better facilitate student wellness apart from traditional counseling. Being adaptable and collaborative with the student body are two major keys.
Schools like UNH, have already implemented this methodology by incorporating a health, wellness and community focus throughout its faculty and facilities. Meanwhile, faculty incorporate information about said facilities and programs into their syllabi while also being trained to properly address students in need. At large, however, UNH is constantly assessing how its services ultimately factor into the larger mental healthcare landscape.
“If we have learned anything over the past year, it is that students, and the institutions that serve them, have reason to take heart,” Elise says. “This year of unexpected and overwhelming challenges, of pain and grief, has also demonstrated just how strong we are, especially when we stand together.”