Queens University has, in my opinion, really been the leader of higher education institutions trying to get a grasp on students’ mental health. Their push was the result of a very unfortunate string of tragic events a few years ago. I’ve blogged about that leadership before here. Queens released a monumental report outlining a number of strategies to help increase student mental wellness.
A few key snipers from the report. Students’ self-reported strategies for dealing with stress:
• Talking to friends/family (74%);
• Distractions (64%);
• Getting enough sleep (57%);
• Regular physical activity (57%);
• Setting priorities (56%);
• Eating a healthy diet (51%); and
• Using time management (43%).
The key suggestions in the report:
- Faculty should be willing to accommodate alternative exam needs. I’ve read the report and I’m not totally clear what that means. Clearly we have a legal obligation to accommodate students registered with the Disability office. Beyond that, it gets really tricky. I see the benefit of accommodation, but flexibility comes with huge costs around exam integrity and fairness.
- Classes offered all 12 months of the year. This is meant to allow students to spread the work load across the full year as opposed to the usual 2 semesters (8 months). It also helps students who fail a course – they can redo it during the summer and get back on track. My Faculty is notoriously bad around this and I will continue to push for improvements.
- Make student mental health a part of regular courses. This could include student research around mental health, perhaps best suited for courses in psychology but definitely not excluded form other areas. A few years ago a group of my students authored a managerial accounting case around the costs of institutionalizing mentally ill patients inside prisons. It made for very interesting group discussions.
- Linking faith-based support and mental health support. This one surprises me. I know that many students are spiritual if not necessarily religious (a very important distinction). Apparently there is research to suggest that students that feel supported in their spirituality are mentally healthier. Very interesting and something I will definitely follow up with.
- Reducing or removing stigma. No surprise here – students feel awkward or conscious about approaching someone for mental health help. We need to … we must … make mental health a normal part of conversations on every campus so that students feel equally comfortable talking about broken legs, STDs, or mental illness.