University students are perhaps one of the most stressed demographics in any country.
The constant pressure of assignments and exams, an ever-increasing loan debt and the notion that their entire future is on the line can really stack up. If the proper care and attention is not provided for these often vulnerable individuals, they can present a serious threat to their own welfare as well as those of others.
One need only look at recent cases of student suicide on campus – such as those at New Zealand’s University of Auckland – to see how, in the worst-case scenarios, poor mental well-being can pose a safety risk on campus.
That is why it’s so crucial for universities to make mental health and well-being a key component of their overall student welfare strategy. Mental well-being initiatives shouldn’t be restricted to those perceived to be most at risk – mental welfare training and education must be extended to everyone who has a presence on campus.
So what can a university’s mental health strategy involve?
First, it’s essential to spread as much awareness of the implications of psychological well-being as possible. Everyone in the campus environment is potentially at risk, so focusing campaigns at key points throughout the year could be effective.
For example, raising awareness during orientation weeks, when students are most likely to be open to taking in large amounts of new information, could stand them in good stead for the semester or year ahead.
Universities must make sure they offer a wide range of training, counselling and outreach services to support students during their studies. Having someone to call on in times of crisis can be critical to helping vulnerable students get their studies and life back on track.
It can also be worthwhile identifying the student segments that could be most in need of mental health support services – for example, international students or those living away from home for the first time, who may not be able to draw on the emotional support they’re used to.
Following these strategies and making mental health a priority is the key to a better university environment and student welfare.