Supporting student mental health

8 January 2019

Mental health challenges are a common concern facing Carleton students. A number of the winter workshops, including the new faculty winter workshop, the winter workshop on feedback, and the advising workshop, included consideration of how to support students facing mental health challenges. While it would be difficult to summarize all of those discussions, the University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) has a resource “Supporting Students Facing Mental Health Challenges” that includes a number of excellent suggestions for faculty and staff.

Tips: Among other things, the CRLT paper suggests that instructors:

  • Include a syllabus statement about supporting students wellness and mental health. A syllabus statement from our very own Office of Health Promotion (OHP) can be found here.
  • Explicitly promote self-care and wellness — by highlighting wellness activities on campus, by encouraging students to take care of themselves at stressful times of the term, etc.
  • Normalize academic challenges and encourage a growth mindset by highlighting how mistakes and failures can help with learning, creating opportunities for students to reflect on the challenges they have encountered (through minute papers or exam wrappers), and by designing courses with lots of low-stakes assignments that provide opportunities for frequent feedback to students.

The resource paper also includes some great suggestions for talking with students who are experiencing mental health challenges, including some cautionary suggestions of what not to do. Faculty members are not expected to play the role of mental health professionals, but they can play a key role in make students aware of the resources that are available to them. OHP and SHAC have put together information about resources available and a flow chart to help faculty and staff understand what to do when working with students who might be in distress.  In addition, faculty should encourage students in their courses who are struggling with mental health issues to work with the Office of Disability Services so that they can get accommodations.

On January 29, Marit Lysne will present an LTC lunch that will provide context for understanding the nationwide increase in demand for counseling services on college campuses as well as presenting statistics about the demand and utilization of counseling services here at Carleton. Hopefully, many of you will be able to join us for that presentation.