be there for… my students
supporting your students so they can shine
As educators it is our responsibility to support our students so they can achieve their goals. This often looks like academic assistance to ensure students are successful in the classroom.
But if a student is experiencing mental health difficulties, support other than academic is needed. This may mean educating ourselves about the warning signs to look out for, making adjustments to our teaching, or being prepared to approach students with resources.
some helpful strategies
Let students know they are welcome to come speak with you about their concerns, whether academic or personal.
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.
Though it can be difficult and may require a little bit of extra work on your part, students who need accommodations will be immensely grateful for your understanding and support.
Offer alternatives to assignments that may be difficult for students 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 for an alternative.
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
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.
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.
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.
Almost one third of all college students report having felt so depressed that they had trouble functioning.