Lucas Center Blog

Responding to Student Mental Health Concerns During Challenging Times

October 29, 2020  / Counseling and Psychological Services  / Tags: Mental Health, Covid, Faculty Development

Are you ever challenged by how to respond to a student who is showing signs of stress or experiencing a mental health condition? This blog post will share information on how mental health conditions and stress impact student success and ways to recognize and respond with knowledge and an ethic of care.

Universities are trying to address student mental health needs through counseling centers and other outreach initiatives. However, do faculty members know how to respond to the mental health concerns of their own students?

As we learn more about how mental health conditions increasingly impact the ability of college students to be successful and complete their degrees, colleges and universities struggle with how best to provide supports and assistance (Auerbach et al., 2016; Burwell, 2018). the American Psychological Association’s October 2018 report titled “Stress in America: Generation Z” stated that individuals aged 18-21 were significantly more likely to report their mental health as poor (27%) compared to 22-37-year-olds (15%), 38-52-year-olds (13%), and 53-72-year-olds (7%) who report their mental health as fair or poor (American Psychological Association, 2018).

College-age students typically experience a variety of mental and social challenges while enrolled in college including identity development, sexuality, substance abuse, grief, loss, family dysfunction, and changes in values (Sharma, 2012). Additional specific stressors college students face include new living arrangements, academic achievement and expectations, time management, and social maladjustments (Linden & Jurdi-Hage, 2017). These and other stressors such as students’ struggles with homesickness, loneliness, and difficulties in adjusting to college have been well-documented in the literature (Buote et al. 2007; Byrd & McKinney, 2012; Fritz et al., 2008; Whitehill et al., 2012). These stressors tend to manifest into negative impacts on academic performance and feelings of being overwhelmed. Linden and Jurdi-Hage (2017) reported that 85% of college students regularly feel overwhelmed by everything they must do in their lives and are often associated with students developing mental health problems. According to Linden and Jurdi-Hage (2017), “If stress is not effectively mediated through coping (e.g., use of coping strategies or seeking help), it can lead to a state of distress (e.g., symptoms of mental illness)” (p. 3).

Many students are arriving on college campuses with mental health needs and an expectation that universities will have the resources and willingness to assist in their success. We at FGCU have a robust counseling center that provides counseling and a plethora of other services to our students; however, are faculty, staff, advisors and administrators prepared to Recognize and Respond to students experiencing a mental health condition?   The literature on this topic indicates faculty members need some support in recognizing and responding to students who might be or are likely experiencing anxiety, depression or even suicidal ideation.  To support faculty in their ability to support all students the Lucas Center partnered with counselors at our Counseling and Psychological Services Center (CAPS) to provide their Recognize, Respond, and Refer Workshop to the FGCU community.  The PowerPoint handout from the presentation is located on the Lucas Blog and the link to their website is below.  Take a few moments to review the information and visit their website, you won’t be disappointed.

Presentation PDF