How should higher education institutions help students deal with their mental health issues?
This article explores how can higher education institutes help to improve students’ mental health issues caused by covid-19.
Throughout Covid-19, the level of distress in university and college students has risen significantly. The worsening of students’ mental health is not a result of the learners’ personality traits but rather connected to the impossibility of engaging in social activities that help cope with everyday difficulties. That, of course, was but one side-effect of the Covid-19 lockdown period(s), which caused a severe number of dropouts or learners forced to postpone their university or college path.
Reasons for student distress
Since these coping strategies were inaccessible and social isolation became a more widespread phenomenon, students began showing more considerable rates of mental health issues. More specifically, significant problems that students had to cope with were:
- Most students found it challenging to get used to online learning and support services. Of course, theoretically speaking, it seems easy to follow lessons online. Still, the first-year students who do not have their studying method yet or even older students may have had difficulties abating their studies all in one go.
- Students’ anxiety levels increased. That happened because the learners were concerned about their academic performance and long-term employment. The academic performance rates got lower because of the concerns connected to the management of study loads. If the students could not graduate with good grades and time, their employment possibilities would be expected.
- The closure of spaces where students could interact with one another represents another factor in worsening students’ mental health and wellbeing. The learners found it difficult to cope with loneliness and the absence of education-related (and not only) social events and gatherings. Graduation ceremonies, exchange studies and study halls were all cancelled or shut down.
- Of course, career opportunities can be brighter if one has already worked, even as a waitress in a local pizzeria. If students have already worked during their college or university years, it shows commitment. Therefore, the learners might have felt that their future careers could also be ruined due to the Covid-19 lockdowns. Or, on the other hand, consider fresh graduates who, instead of having all the chances to find a job, had to stay at home and lose time because everything was shot down and the companies were not hiring.
- Moreover, students might have lost their part-time (or even full-time) jobs, which undoubtedly led to concerns among the latter, especially regarding the financial sphere of those students who were economically independent. The loss of student jobs also represented a valid factor in the growth of anxiety levels.
- Of course, the levels of distress also rose because the opportunities for socialising were limited. That said, the isolation isn’t just about the college or university-related activities but also other ways of spending free time, such as events, social gatherings, or even visiting friends or family.
That said, now was the students are returning to campuses, higher education institutions have to provide the proper means for their students to recover from the high levels of distress caused by the abovementioned factors.
- Students’ voices must be listened to; besides, giving them the proper support means assertively responding to the learners’ needs. That may include peer-to-peer help, counselling, messaging, student councils and other initiatives led by students but controlled by specialists employed by the university or college. In this way, it is more likely that students needing support will eventually show up.
- A clear plan illustrating all activities for students’ wellbeing should be communicated to the latter. Besides, there are numerous ways of developing cost-efficient, exciting and engaging intends to improve the situation. An extra effort during the mentoring hours or other particular attention given to the students makes them feel understood and lowers their stress level. In this way, students know how to ask for help.
- It is nice to come up with what the faculty believes are assessment methods, but it is essential to consider whether or not their methods are constructive. That is why students have to be taken into consideration and listened to. So, when putting together an assessment plan, it is a must to listen to the students. Anonymous questionnaires and surveys would be extremely helpful in doing it.
- For improving on and off-campus wellness, it’d be better to engage technology and digital platforms in the activity. Mobile applications, desktop programmes, or other online platforms dealing with mental or physical wellbeing are all welcome. In this way, students can reach for help even when off-campus and at any time.
As ACS – ASOMI College of Sciences has its students’ health at heart, we adapt all the above-mentioned techniques, including mentoring, to improve its students’ mental health conditions. Click here for another article by ACS about students’ mental health.