Who will you partner with to support your students and staff’s mental wellness?
College students’ rising mental wellness and health needs have kept higher education administrators up at night since before the additional stressors of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. US News & World Report’s 2019 article More College Students Look for Mental Health Help on Campus states that the number of students receiving mental health treatment at schools has grown by 35% since 2014. However, the number of licensed counselors on staff has not grown proportionately to meet this need: some campuses only have one counselor for every 4,000 students.
This student-to-counselor ratio is hardly sustainable and certainly not pandemic-proof. When hiring additional full-time, in-house resources is not in the budget, how can schools address students’ mental well-being needs in a scalable and affordable way?
When determining how to support students’ mental wellness, institutions must first consider the whole student. Supplementary counseling resources are one part of a matrix of services that schools can provide to support student well-being and educational success. To fill in the rest of this matrix, institutions should consider the other stressors in students’ lives, from finances to childcare, and the resources that could address these issues.
Once institutions have mapped out their students’ priority needs, we recommend seeking out partners with expertise in the areas of concern who can help you scale to meet the rising demand. When selecting a partner, consider the answers to the following questions to determine if they are the right fit for your institution:
- Does the partner’s mission and values align with the problem you are trying to solve? When it comes to higher education, there is no shortage of potential partners. From learning management system vendors to single sign-on providers to telemedicine, every company has unique expertise and set of offerings. While features are an important part of the decision-making process, it is critical to first consider mission and values, especially when it comes to services related to student well-being. Evaluate potential partners to ensure that they are a natural fit for your campus culture and community.
- What is the partner’s track record on successfully engaging students? One of the challenges of supporting students’ mental well-being is educating students about the resources available to them. Services only go so far if students don’t know how to access them, so it’s critical to pair them with an awareness campaign. Look for a partner who has had proven success proactively reaching students where they are and helping them engage with the services they need.
- Can the partner flexibly scale or decrease their services depending on the time of year? In regard to the mental well-being of college students, there are certain times of the year – such as final exams – when the needs may be greater and more acute. Being able to flexibly adapt depending on the time of year and shifting of students is essential criteria for a long-term partner. And it’s not just about the availability of counselors. Students may also benefit from additional tutoring support and time management help during stressful and busy times of the school year.
- Is the partner equipped to support faculty and staff in addition to students? Directly after student mental health, the most pressing issue in 2020 for presidents at public four-year institutions was the “mental health of faculty and staff” (42%). Faculty and staff can’t be expected to support students unless they can first take care of themselves. Find a partner with the experience and ability to support all members of a campus community, not just the student population.
With the start of the new year, now is the time to reflect on and re-evaluate the well-being services available on your campus while there is time to budget to fill in the gaps. As student needs and mental states fluctuate in response to stressors from school and beyond (there’s still a pandemic, after all), finding partners who can help address these issues is more important than ever before. You can find out more about partnering with Upswing to support your students here.