Description

Like post-secondary employees in their vocational work, all students experience difficulties from time to time in their academic programs. While many students are able to address these concerns as they emerge, other students continue to struggle. National College Health Assessment (NCHA) data indicate a gap between the number of students reporting mental health concerns and those who report having received mental health support. The longer these concerns persist, the more they impact student learning and mental health. Also, as their issues persist, students expend increasing amounts of time and energy trying to cope. It is important therefore, to build campus community capacity to support students earlier, before their concerns become more serious. Similarly, available assistance for other campus members under added duress trying to manage demands in their work can preempt exacerbation of their struggles.

Those who interact with students and faculty and staff members in the course of their day on campus are in the best position to notice early indications of concern. Therefore, early recognition requires everyone’s participation. Building this capacity involves increasing student, staff, and faculty ability to recognize early indications that a fellow member may be experiencing difficulty as well as indicators of more serious distress. It also involves building campus community members’ capacity to reach out to another and help connect them to appropriate resources and supports. 

Examples

  • Early alert systems that build faculty and staff capacity to notice early indications of increased struggles for students or fellow employees and connect those individuals with supports and resources.
  • Provide training for all student employees and leaders; and peer volunteer groups in noticing early indicators of student concerns as well as options for responding within the scope of the peer program (notifying supervisor, reaching out, and/or facilitating referral).
  • Provide orientation in a motivational enhancement approach that facilitates conversations in which members of concern are encouraged in critical self-reflection, greater intentionality and sense of self-efficacy in pursuing positive change around their pattern(s) of substance use.
  • Online self-screening questionnaires that help members recognize that they may be struggling and offers resource information.  

Key Considerations

  • Are training/educational programs in place to support faculty, staff and students to recognize others on campus who may be experiencing difficulties? Are more in-depth levels of training available for faculty, staff and students with specialized and/or front line roles (e.g. academic advisors, security staff, student residence staff, peer advisors, etc.)?
  • Are training/educational programs grounded in campus members’ mental health experiences?
  • Are mechanisms/practices/programs in place to facilitate outreach to members experiencing difficulties and connection to appropriate supportive services and resources?
  • Are faculty/staff/students aware of resources and student services available to assist students who may be struggling?
  • To what degree are faculty and staff comfortable with their role in noticing early indicators and facilitating outreach? What needs to be done to increase their comfort level (i.e. Is there adequate training and education provided regarding faculty/ staff roles and boundaries in enabling early identification and outreach? Are there other considerations such as faculty/staff time and resources that need to be addressed?)?
  • Are student peer services sustainable and adequately supported (i.e. peer advising services, student mental health clubs and networks, etc.)?
  • Does the relevant programming espouse values of campus member autonomy, equity, and inclusion? 

Key Resources