With 1 in 4 college/university students having a mental health issue, this is a topic that affects almost all of us directly or indirectly although most of us do not talk about it due to the stigma surrounding mental health. But make no mistake; this is not a topic that can be ignored!
An increasing number of students are arriving on college campuses with mental health issues. It is not uncommon for students to experience varying degrees of stress, anxiety and depression during their time in college which impacts both academic and non-academic life areas.
75 percent of lifetime cases of diagnosable mental disorders begin by the age 24.
We recognize that not all college staff has training as ‘professional counsellors’. However they are ideally positioned to respond and engage students to assist them in accessing mental health resources on campus. Behaviours that may indicate a student is struggling with mental health issues include excessive procrastination, poor class attendance, disruptive behavior in the classroom and/or marked changes in appearance or mood. Of course there are other early identification signs as well which are addressed in later sections of this portal.
College staff/faculty may observe behaviours that could indicate underlying mental health issues or a student may self-report their own concerns. It is very important to listen to the student’s self-disclosure about their concerns with academic and other life area challenges. Increasing rates of suicide in post-secondary settings is a prevalent concern. Undoubtedly, there is a need for College staff/faculty to be prepared to deal with behaviours and or statements that indicate a student may be planning to harm themselves and work to access crisis supports as needed.
College communities and classrooms can create a culture of wellbeing and a sense of belonging. This provides a forum to promote positive mental health for ALL students rather than focusing solely on those identified as having ‘mental health problems’. College staff/faculty have an opportunity to feel empowered by knowing they have the ability to aid in addressing mental health issues and could have a significant effect on a student’s future.
Stigma is the number one reason students may not seek help. Stereotypes, negative perceptions, and a general lack of understanding is the result of stigma associated with a number of health conditions, especially with mental health.
With one in three college and university student’s having a mental illness it is a priority to make strides in removing stigma surrounding mental illness. Stigma is a human rights issue that has serious implications for health care and mental health. As a result, individuals coping with a mental illness try to mask their condition instead of seeking help.
Stigma not only makes it hard for the individual coping with a mental illness but also makes it hard for loved ones to accept and admit there’s a problem.
Actions to conquer Stigma
- Educate yourself and your Community
- Raise Awareness
- Become a Leader
- Get Involved