be there for… your students

professor in classroom

Students need to hear that their mental well-being is more important than any grade or class. Discuss taking care of one’s mental health as a priority.

supporting your students so they can shine

As educators, we support our students so they can achieve their goals. This often involves academic assistance that helps students be successful with learning.

But what happens when the reason a student is struggling has more to do with mental health issues than academic issues? There are several things you can do to help, such as educating yourself about the warning signs to look out for, making adjustments to your teaching, or being prepared to approach students with helpful resources.

 

some helpful strategies

Be open

Let students know they are welcome to come speak with you about their concerns, whether academic or personal.

Be upfront

Address mental health early on. Share that you are there for your students and want to be a source of support. You want your students to succeed academically, and are obviously there if they need academic assistance, but you are also available should they be experiencing mental health difficulties.

Add notes to your syllabi

Include the phone number for your campus’ Counseling and Psychological Services on the syllabus. Discuss taking care of one’s mental health as a priority. Your students need to hear their mental well-being is more important than any class.

Suicide is a leading cause of death among college students, but mental illness is treatable and suicide is preventable.

offer alternatives

Though it can be difficult and may require extra work on your part, students who need accommodations will be immensely grateful for your understanding and support.

You can, for example, offer alternatives to assignments that may be difficult for students who are having mental health difficulties. For many students, asking for an alternative assignment is a difficult thing to do, so meet them with support and understanding. Examine what the purpose of the assignment or grade component is, and think creatively to suggest an alternative such as the following.

Class Participation vs. Reading Responses

If the purpose of class participation is to show a student has completed the readings, offer the opportunity to do reading responses instead.

Cold Calling vs. Pop Quizzes

Cold-calling can be extremely anxiety-inducing for some students. Students have been known to drop a class if this is a policy due to fear of being called on. If the goal is to ensure students are prepared for class, try implementing pop quizzes.

Public Speaking vs. Recorded or Narrated Presentation

If a student is unable to do public speaking in class, offer to allow them to narrate their presentation and present the video in class. Or, have them film their presentation in front of a group of people of their choosing and show that video in class.

Untreated mental health issues in the college student population — such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders — are associated with lower GPA and higher probability of dropping out of college.

educate yourself and your students

Triggering content

Think about what you will be discussing and whether it may be potentially triggering to some students. Place a trigger warning before engaging in the topic so students can prepare themselves.

Person-first language

When describing someone with a mental illness, use person-first language. This means saying “person with bipolar disorder” rather than “bipolar person” or “person with anorexia” instead of “anorexic.” Also, it is best practice to say “died by suicide” rather than “committed suicide.” The word “committed” connotes a crime.

Warning signs

Educate yourself about the Signs and Symptoms of mental health problems. Look out for these symptoms in your students and address them early on if you have concerns.

Available resources on campus

Know what resources are available to your students and have the information on hand. See the Crisis Information: Get Help Now page if the student is in crisis. For other places to find help, see the Referral Resources page.

Almost one third of college students report having felt so depressed that they had trouble functioning.