How to Support Students' Mental Health

by Rachel Bishop | May 21, 2020
How to Support Students' Mental Health

How to Support Students' Mental Health During COVID-19

Recently, Signal Vine hosted a webinar with Active Minds, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization supporting mental health awareness and education for young adults. The webinar, led by Laura Horne and Becky Fein from Active Minds and Nicole Markisohn from Signal Vine, discussed how to support students’ mental health during COVID-19. The webinar can be viewed here. Also, you can download the slide deck here.

Below, we've included some of the major takeaways from the webinar.

1. Students report that their mental health has worsened since the onset of to support students' mental health

Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, there were 9.2 million college students who were experiencing a diagnosable mental health concern. Around 87% of students said they felt “overwhelmed” in the last 12 months, and more than half - 53% - said they felt “hopeless.” Clearly, many students were struggling with their mental health well before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

Since then, the situation has not improved. Now, 1 in 5 college students says their mental health has “significantly worsened” under COVID-19. And 80% of college students report that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health. They’re feeling stress, anxiety, sadness, and loneliness. As a result, students need more support than ever.

how to support students' mental health

2. Students don’t know where to go to get help with their mental health.

Even worse, the majority of students - 55% - say they wouldn’t know where to go if they or someone they knew needed professional mental health services right away. As noted earlier, students need more support now than ever. To that end, it’s crucial that mental health resources for students are easy to access. More importantly, the providers of those resources must ensure that students know where and how to access them.

3. Students have five main points that they hope school leaders are thinking about in terms of how to support students’ mental health.

Students have noted that they hope school leaders are thinking about these five things in the short and long term for student mental health before and after the pandemic:

  • Increased academic support. Students hope that school leaders will be lenient, accommodating, and flexible.
  • More mental health resources. Students hope that school leaders will invest in counseling and coping resources.
  • Focus on soft skills. Students hope their school leaders will have empathy, compassion, and understanding while communicating with them. They hope that their school leaders will make them feel validated for the burdens they’re going through.
  • More opportunities for social connection. Students still want to attend those events that have been canceled, even if it’s in a virtual setting.
  • Engage in long-term planning. Students want help from their colleges in healing and recovering when they return. They hope their colleges will put in place improved practices to more easily pivot to remote learning in case of another similar crisis.

4. Higher ed leaders are just as concerned about how to support students’ mental health.

Signal Vine surveyed more than 500 college administrators and access professionals to see what their biggest concerns are in terms of communicating through the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are some of the findings from this survey.

how to improve students' mental health

5. V-A-R conversations can help students feel to improve student mental health

Active Minds suggests using V-A-R conversations with students to support them. This stands for Validate, Appreciate, and Refer. First, validate the feelings and experiences that students share. Let them know they are heard and that their concerns are valid. Then, appreciate that they were courageous enough to share their concerns. Then, refer to skills and supports that may be helpful to them, whether it’s asking what they do for self-care or what would be most helpful for them in that moment.

6. Higher ed leaders can use texting to help support students’ mental health.

how to support students' mental health
Click the image above to read Signal Vine's blog with text message examples of how to support students' mental health.

Many of Signal Vine’s customers are using the Signal Vine platform to reach their students and check in on them and their mental health. There are three main benefits to doing this:

  • You can reach more students. Even students who aren’t active with other channels are responsive to texts. Those who may not have internet access or computers at home will still be able to receive and respond to a text message.
  • You can manage staff capacity. Texting via a comprehensive platform helps staff provide resources for all students while identifying those who need more support.
  • You can personalize outreach. Personalized messages can help staff show empathy and identify at-risk students to provide them with helpful resources.

Learn more

Active Minds has many resources available to those in higher ed who work with students:

If you'd like to learn how AI-powered texting can help support students' mental health, request a demo of the Signal Vine platform below.

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