More than half of students say they do not know where to turn for mental health support amid the impacts of COVID-19, according to Active Minds’ nationwide Young Adult Mental Health Survey. This is concerning given that 20% report the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly worsened their mental health.
After a traumatic event such as this, a campus community often engages in an intervention, or a series of interventions, typically described as “postvention.” Effective postvention responses include communication, reflection, stabilization, coping, and advocacy. But it should also engage students as equal partners in the work.
This quick guide is intended to assist students in leading or engaging in a campus-wide response in alignment with their campus’s postvention plan for COVID-19 or in place of such a plan if none exists:
What students can do to support their campus community RIGHT AWAY:
Help spread the word about your university’s mental health and academic resources through the campus newspaper, social media, and other outlets. Equip yourself and other student leaders to refer other students to the appropriate resources and services, especially resources for help-seeking.
Programming and Partnerships:
An effective way to help the campus cope with the impact of COVID-19 is to help them feel heard and supported through mindful programming and advocacy efforts. Recruit other student organizations to join you. There is strength in numbers! See Active Minds’ recommendations for moving programming online here.
It is important to practice individual and group-based self-care on a regular basis. Examples include reaching out to your support network, seeking therapy when needed (affordable teletherapy options may be available for you during this time), recruiting many student leaders to share the load with you, and regularly taking a break from your efforts. Check out our self-care tips and join us at the Active Minds Student Slack Network to talk about all things self-care, as well.
What students can do to support a healthy campus LONG-TERM:
Review Existing Policies:
What policies and protocols are being developed by your campus to support the mental health of students both in the short-term and in the long-term? Is your campus providing any academic accommodations or leniency in grading? You can start by reaching out to the administrative staff of your school’s wellness center and/or counseling center to find out. Most Active Minds chapters have established relationships with counseling/wellness staff; partnering with the chapter to initiate this research may be advantageous.
Ask to Join COVID-19 Taskforces:
Some schools are starting to put COVID-19 taskforces in place to determine the impact of COVID-19 on students and plan for the future. Find out if one exists and, if so, whether the committee includes a student representative. If not, work with the staff to add a student leader with an interest in and knowledge of mental health who can articulate the needs, desires, and expectations of the student body.
Access Your Campus’s COVID-19 Postvention Plan:
Every campus should have or be working towards a concrete postvention response plan to support students in the long-term and to apply lessons learned to future high-impact incidents. The plan should include steps for providing student support, maintaining responsible communications, and providing resources to grieving students. Students can assess their campus’s plan and consider:
→ Is the school’s plan adequate?
→ Are all students included (especially students of marginalized identities most at-risk for negative impacts of COVID-19)?
→ Does the plan communicate the importance of seeking mental health support? Does the school have resources readily available to students?
If the answer to these questions is “no” more often than “yes,” students can request an opportunity to provide student input to bolster the plan.
Know the Facts:
Administrators want to create a better environment for students. They will be most likely to listen to students and implement change when students present evidence to support their claims along with potential solutions and ideas for improvement. Campus mental health statistics are the foundation for inspiring new ideas and building momentum for implementing change. Students can research and use these statistics as evidence to corroborate their claims. Some schools have this information available through their campus counseling/wellness centers, but if not, using national statistics to describe student mental health concerns can be effective as well.
It is also important to determine students’ attitudes towards their campus’s efforts to provide appropriate and accessible resources for students seeking help. Are students aware of the resources available to them on campus? Students can find out if a survey is planned to collect this information, and if not, it may be time to conduct one.
COVID-19 has put students’ mental health at risk. Your voice is more important than ever! For more information about researching campus policies and collecting information from the student body, visit www.activeminds.org/transform.
If you are working on COVID-19 related policy changes with your campus, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org!