Addressing common mental health issues among college students: Mind matters
connects to a broader strategy of improvement (school, feeder pattern, system).
would make a significant difference for student learning).
Working in education is exciting yet highly demanding, especially when teenagers are in the picture. The impact that a teacher may have on a teen’s development and well-being is profound, and as a result the role of the teacher often extends beyond the traditional classroom. This can be challenging for some teachers, particularly when faced with mental health problems that youth may be experiencing. The mental health of students in schools is an often overlooked, yet extremely relevant issue for today’s educator. a person may experience many different kinds of problems, such as difficulty thinking or focusing, extreme emotional highs and lows, or sleep problems. When these symptoms significantly disrupt a person’s life, we say that the person has a mental disorder or a mental illness,
Promoting the mental health and wellbeing of all young people is a vital part of the core business of teachers by creating a supportive school environment that is conducive to learning. Teachers need to be comfortable and confident in promoting and teaching for mental health. Specific, targeted interventions, provided within a whole-school framework, address the needs of the minority of students who require additional support.
Mental disorders are as prevalent among college students as same-aged non-students, and these disorders appear to be increasing in number and severity
teachers’ mental health literacy and capacity in the context of providing help to their students. (knowledge about mental health issues within the classroom). Secondary data from a large-scale survey of teachers in one Ontario school board was analyzed to assess teachers’ current levels of knowledge, awareness
Teachers may be the most underused resources in mental health delivery (Lynn, McKay ; Atkins, 2003). Teachers are frontline professionals who have daily contact with children, and are therefore most likely to have the biggest impact on their students (Reinke et al., 2011). There is a well-documented association between teacher characteristics and child outcomes, such as the child’s mental health, behaviour, educational engagement and academic performance (Atkins et al, 1998; Whitley, 2010). Many early studies confirmed that higher levels of teacher support are associated with academic motivation and attainment of goals, reduced levels of psychological distress and student prosocial behaviour
During the normal school week, teachers spend more time with the students than the students do with their own families. Thus, teachers can theoretically spot anything troubling the students. But teachers often aren’t given enough training to recognize mental health issues and have plenty else to do already.
Education professionals have recognized the impact that a student’s mental health has on learning and achievement, and they realize that there’s a great deal that can be done to help students with mental health issues.
Caring adults can make an important difference in a child’s life (Luthar et al., 2000; Meichenbaum, 2005, for a summary of research). Caring adults make themselves available to students, listen attentively, and reflect meaningfully on the concerns students raise, sometimes offering advice for students to consider. Educators who make an effort to know their students are well positioned to notice changes in behaviour that may signal escalating social-emotional difficulties. It is important to reiterate that while educators play an important role in identifying signs of potential mental health problems, they do not work alone. A team approach by the parent(s)/guardian, other school staff, and sometimes specialists from the board and community is imperative in addressing these problems. Each school board will have its own procedures to follow, but all boards have a process educators can use to raise concerns about students who are experiencing difficulty. As well, it is essential to involve parents/guardians in planning how best to address the needs of the student.
Mental disorders affect a student’s ability to learn.
Mental health problems may pose a significant and unnecessary obstacle for students to overcome in the classroom. Studies show that students with emotional disturbance and poor social-emotional functioning have difficulty meeting academic standards. challenges to optimizing learning outcomes.
By being aware of these factors, teachers can better meet the specific needs of students to help them learn most effectively. Teachers are in a unique position to really make a difference when it comes to promoting and addressing student mental health concerns in and out of the classroom.
By learning how to recognize and address adolescent mental health problems, as well as how to appropriately refer those young people suffering from mental health problems to health professionals for treatment, educators have a unique opportunity to play an important role in the health and well being of Canadian youth. It is therefore imperative that teachers are equipped with the practical tools and knowledge required to recognize and intervene appropriately in situations where mental illness may be a concern.
mental health include depression, anxiety, and often, substance abuse, too. Such issues are difficult enough for adults to cope with, how can we expect children and teenagers to cope without help? We examine the importance of addressing mental health in schools.
MENTAL HEALTH IN SCHOOLS: HOW TEACHERS HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
As an educator these numbers illustrate the potential that these problems have to seriously impact the day-to-day functioning of youth in the classroom.
Mental disorders affect a student’s emotional well-being. If ignored, mental health problems can impede social development, leaving young people feeling socially isolated, stigmatized and unhappy.
Teachers represent a prominent and positive adult role model in the student’s life. It is part of their role to be supportive and aware of student difficulties and direct them to the appropriate resources for help if needed.
3 TEACHERS ARE IN A UNIQUE POSITION TO REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE WHEN IT COMES TO PROMOTING AND ADDRESSING STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS IN AND OUT OF THE CLASSROOM.
Question 2 – the causes of which are extremely complicated and may be the result of a complex interaction of academics, finances, and social isolation.
Most people at some point feel worried, stressed or even down about things that are going on in their lives.
There are a number of factors in life that can have an impact on our mental health. These factors can either pose a risk to, or protect, your mental health and wellbeing.
Everyone is different and we all live in varying circumstances. Risk and protective factors are also different for everyone and change over your lifespan e.g. child, teenager, adult or older adult.
By building the protective factors and reducing the risk factors in your life you can improve your mental health and wellbeing.
The college years have often been called “the greatest years of our lives” due to the fact that there is rarely a time when people learn so much, meet so many people, and experience so many new things at one time. With so many positive stories around, it can be easy to overlook the fact that there are also a large number of challenges present at a university. For many young students, it is possible that college could also end up being the most stressful years of their lives.
The unique thing about being a college student is that there are so many possible sources of distress at any given point in time. Some people may not feel any of them during their time on campus while others can be overwhelmed by all of them at some point.
Academics, culture shock, finances, and social life all come together to make the college experience more challenging. A glance into each one demonstrates reveals some of the more common types of stress students deal with on a daily basis.
Academics – grades, funding osap fear of failure, (workplace stress )stress well, it will affect their academic performance and increase the chance of psychological distress, which can result in some infectious diseases
The most obvious source of stress for a college student is trying to maintain a healthy GPA through graduation. A student’s grades can impact class ranking, graduate school acceptance, future financial aid, and possible job offers. If for some reason grades start to fall, it is possible that scholarships can be revoked or students may be asked to take time off from school. This puts a huge amount of pressure on every term paper or exam that an undergrad faces.
Another academic-related issue facing scholars is choosing a major or career path. Although many schools give students time before having to declare a major, there are some programs that require individuals to start taking pre-requisite classes right away in order to graduate on time. This leaves young people fresh out of high school making major decisions about what they want to do with their lives once college is over. Unfortunately, some people also have parents that may be exerting a certain amount of pressure on them to follow certain career paths.
Trying to keep up a certain grade level while also mapping out an appropriate major can be a huge burden, and some students can let it get the best of them.according to the American College Health Association’s 2006 survey of college students, the one greatest health obstacle to college students’ academic performance was academic stress. Of the 97,357 college students who participated in the survey, 32 percent reported that academic stress had resulted in either an incomplete, a dropped course or a lower grade. Academic stress can be the ultimate career stopper. The key to avoid becoming a drop-out, as a result of academic stress, is to identify and treat its source.
One of the most common causes of academic stress is anxiety, reports Ranjita Misra, an associate professor in the Department of Health and Kinesiology at Texas A & M University. Professor Misra and her student, Michelle McKean, conducted a study surveying 249 college students at a Midwestern university. The study showed that anxiety, ineffective time management and a lack of satisfying activities outside of academia were strong predictors of academic stress. The study also showed that while female students managed their time more effectively than male students, they also experienced the highest levels of stress and anxiety.
Despite disagreement about the predominant cause of academic stress, researchers agree that the most common form of anxiety causing academic stress is achievement anxiety. Achievement anxiety is a fear of failure in an academic setting that arises when parents, teachers or the student’s own expectations exceed what the student believes she can realistically achieve. Sources of achievement anxiety include failure to satisfy ambitious or overly critical parents’ expectations in early childhood as well as early exposure to overachieving siblings or peers. Seeing others receive praise and rewards for their achievements can give students a false impression of what teachers and parents expect of them.
Stress and Motivation
Academic stress and achievement anxiety are, not surprisingly, inversely related to students’ grades. Academic stress hinders optimal performance and requires time spent on coping rather than on preparing for class or tests. More surprising, perhaps, is the result reported in “Research in Higher Education” in 2000 which showed that academic stress and achievement anxiety can have a positive effect on motivation. A plausible explanation of this relationship is that students are aware that their increased stress levels may affect their final grades. Their stress, therefore, can make them more motivated to put time and energy into making up for the time spent coping with stress.
Poor workload management
Culture shock – international students – loneliness – homesickness
Students from China, Japan, India and other countries experience cultural shock as they enter the campus itself. They tend to stay away from all students, immersing only in their individual studies.
Feeling of Alienation and Racial Isolation
There are great expectations when students come to study in an educational institution of repute. Often, foreign students find immense disappointment when they find that the welcome they expected upon arrival was missing. Racial discrimination and religious alienation are factors leading to circumstances which may cause as student to “shy away from the group.” Unless a student is partnered with an exemplary student, they may have problems merging socially and academically in their new country. Many occurrences of attempted suicides of international or newly immigrated students are not adequately recorded for statistics.
One of the major problems for students is the difficulty with understanding and speaking the English language. Differing language perceptions result in the misunderstanding of the professors and their own peers. While native students and international students both listen to the same lectures, international students may find communication barriers threatening their understanding of the subject taught.
Structure of Classroom Lectures
For a native student, the methods and presentation styles of classroom lectures are very familiar. For international students, classroom lectures can be quite confusing based upon their timings and different venues. Abroad, students are in the same classroom throughout the day. Students find addressing the faculty and interacting with them quite stressful. They may not understand clearly what the professors tell them to do, but the fear of sounding ignorant could be a deterrence to ask for further directions.
Lack of Support Groups
Students need to have a support system in place as they arrive. Lack of support groups and the absence of easily accessible help-lines may pose problems. It can be corrected with pre-counseling programs and mentoring. Usually, most of the orientation programs miss the whole point and they do not address the social aspect of adapting to a new culture. It would help if a former international student shares his or her experiences.
For those students who travel abroad for the first time, homesickness usually hits them during the first few weeks to a few months later. Educational institutions should let them know of the international call facilities that are available to them, so they can contact home with greater ease.
When native born friends get together, it is sometimes at the local pubs and dance halls; however, international students may find it difficult to merge into such a culture. For instance, a foreign student may not be used to the pub scenes in North America, therefore they tend to stay alone or congregate with other international students. Educational institutions can offer venues where international students can mingle freely with the native students. During those events a cultural exchange can strengthen the both native and non-native students.
One of the most difficult things about going to college is getting used to the idea of being away from home for an extended period of time. For many students, the initial excitement of finally being on their own gives way to anxiety and sadness upon realizing how far away their family and friends are. Being thrust into a situation where they have to learn how to take care of themselves can have a negative impact on those students that are not prepared for it.
Another factor which may lead to homesickness is the sense of culture shock one may feel on campus. Students from smaller schools could feel overwhelmed at the sheer number of students at their university. Others from small towns may not be used to the city-life that surrounds colleges and universities in an urban area. Undergrads from the city could feel lost and bored at a college in Smalltown, USA.
Much like a child who goes away to summer camp for the first time, students could eventually become consumed with thoughts of family and friends back home. If unchecked, these feelings could lead to depression, bad grades, and dropping out of school.
The friendships made in college are often ones that people carry with them throughout life. However, learning how to make new friends can be a difficult, uncomfortable process for new students. Many of them are coming from high school where they have been surrounded by the same social group and have not had to make new friends in a number of years.
Although most universities recognize this and set up a number of icebreakers in the first few weeks of school, it can still be hard for undergrads to figure out where to go to meet new people. Depending on how comfortable a person is with approaching new people, the situation can be extremely stressful.
Some questions that may run through a student’s mind in the early days of class:
Where do I go on campus to meet new people?
Should I just hang out with people from my dorm?
Am I isolating myself too much?
What if I’m not good at starting conversations?
Being exposed to people from different backgrounds can make things more challenging because it may force a student to associate with people outside of their normal comfort zone. Others may be going through the process of learning more about themselves while also trying to build close lasting friendships.
“Loneliness is feeling sad about being by yourself, particularly over a long period of time. Isolation is being separated from other people and your environment. Loneliness can sometimes be felt even in relationships or when surrounded by people.”1Feelings of loneliness and/or isolation are something that most people experience at some time in their lives. These feelings are normal and usually pass but if they don’t go away and last for a long time, it can have a negative impact on your mental health and wellbeing.2There are many reasons why people feel lonely or isolated. Some reasons may include:
relocation or death of your spouse, family member, partner or friend
living on your own
poor family connection
difficulties socialising and feeling like you don’t belong
feelings of loss or grief
poor physical health or frailty
mental health issues or conditions (e.g. depression, anxiety)
unable to participate in activities due to illness, mobility or transport issues
retirement from work
a lack of purpose or meaning in life
language barriers or reduced connections with your culture.3What can you do?
Don’t give up, staying connected with your community, family and friends can make a difference to how you feel.
Try the following or visit ways to look after your mental health:
Catch-up with family or friends you may have lost touch with. Make the first move; don’t wait for others to get in touch with you. If they live far away, try calling, emailing, text messaging etc.4Get out and about – if you are able to go out, attending social activities, exercising, visiting people, going to the shops or library are all ways that may help.
Take care of yourself – remember to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep and reduce or avoid alcohol and other drug use.
Find and join activities where you can meet other people with the same interests – this may include starting a new hobby, joining a club or volunteering. You are less likely to feel isolated and alone when you are doing things you enjoy with other people
Finances – unemployment, dept, poverty (loans, savings, and employment) balancing work and school.
Plain and simple, college is expensive and getting more expensive every year. Whether a student attends a community college in their hometown or a private school miles away from home, the cost of tuition, books, and room and board can add up quickly. Unless a full scholarship is involved, it can be worrisome to figure out how the bills will get paid each semester.
Some students take it upon themselves to get jobs during the school year to help offset some of the costs associated with going to college. These individuals not only have to balance their classes and schoolwork, but they also have to find a way to schedule 20-40 hours of regular employment into their lives. Trying to find enough time to do all of that and get an adequate amount of sleep can be an uphill battle.
Other students take out student loans in order to fund their education. While the loans may provide instant financial support, there is stress associated with them when it comes time to start paying them back. As graduation approaches, many students start to worry about the amount of money that is hanging over their heads. This amount can even start to influence decisions like whether or not to attend graduate school or what types of job offers to accept after college is over.
Seven out of 10 college students feel stressed about their personal finances, according to a new national survey.
Nearly 60 percent said they worry about having enough money to pay for school, while half are concerned about paying their monthly expenses.
The findings suggest that the pressures of student loan debt and finding ways to make ends meet are weighing on America’s college students, said Anne McDaniel, co-author of the study.
In fact, 32 percent of students reported neglecting their studies at least sometimes because of the money they owed.
“The number of students feeling financial stress is striking,” said McDaniel, who is associate director of research and data management at The Ohio State University’s Center for the Study of Student Life.The findings come from the National Student Financial Wellness Study, which surveyed 18,795 undergraduate students at 52 colleges and universities across the country. It included students from four-year and two-year private and public institutions.”We need to help students manage their stress so they can be conscientious about their financial decisions, but not so overwhelmed that it hurts their academics or health,” added co-author Catherine Montalto, an associate professor of human sciences at Ohio State.
Financial problems lead some students to make difficult choices, the survey found. Nearly three out of 10 students said they reduced their class load because of the money they owed, while 16 percent took a break from their college or university and 13 percent transferred to another institution.
Clear the Hurdles
There are people that can help students who are stressed out:
Resident Advisors (RAs)
Family and friends
Unemployment, redundancy, loss of a business, large investment losses or other financial loss can have a negative impact on your mental health.17 In these circumstances, it is normal to experience a range of emotions and problems including:
difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
anger, irritability, frustration, shock, sadness etc
feelings of embarrassment or guilt
distancing yourself from others and not socialising as much as usual
loss of direction, feeling overwhelmed, anxious, powerless or fearful.18
For most people these feelings decrease or disappear with time. To manage these, try the following tips on ways to look after your mental health and wellbeing. However, if after trying these tips, these feelings still don’t seem to be going away and they’re impacting your life, you may find it helpful to talk to someone you trust or your GP.
Looking after yourself
Looking after your mental health and wellbeing will help you manage the stress and worry of unemployment or business loss. There are simple and practical things you can do to look after your mental health and wellbeing during this time.5Take it one day at a time
These situations can make you feel like there is too much to cope with all at once. Focus on the here and now and trust that you will have what it takes to cope with tomorrow. Plan your day so that at the end of it you will feel you have achieved something, however small. 19
Stay positive and keep up your energy
It can be helpful to focus on the future and the things that are within your control. There are things you can do to help you move forward, such as:
Maintaining a regular daily routine can provide many benefits such as a sense ofgreater control of things in your life, a sense of purpose and assist in maintaining focus on important things. It also allows you to build time into your day to maintain your mental health and wellbeing;
Making a job search plan;
Writing a list of activities or little things you can do that make you feel good;
Writing a list of the positive things you’ve achieved, skills you have and things you’ve done well; and
Rather than worrying about things you can’t control, work out a list of things you can do such as learning new skills to improve your employment options.
This could be your ending transition sentence. With the right frame of mind and a positive support system, any of the stressors mentioned above can be conquered. Preparation, hard work, an open mind and a good attitude can ensure that the college years remain the best years.
Question 3 Administrators have noted the high prevalence of poor mental health and low levels of mental health literacy of students.
When Teacher Self-Care Is Not Enough
We need better structures to sustain teachers who work with students with mental illnesses.
Four decades ago, when I started working with students who struggled with mental health issues, my colleagues and I were continually improvising. These were the years immediately after the federal special education regulations were first written, well before we could access the now abundant research and practice on trauma, brain development, differentiation, and inclusion. Those new regulations required for the first time that our atypical children had the unassailable right to an education. We dove into the challenge, spurred on as much by our naïveté as by our deep belief in justice and equity.
We came to work each day with an almost fanatical optimism that we could figure out every student’s needs. We were trying to do the impossible, the absurd, the extraordinary, the necessary—all against the odds. We bolstered one another’s capacity for empathy and creativity and turned to one another for laughs and hugs. The mental health challenges that students presented required us to be a support system for one another.
Collaboration with parents should be built into the tiers of schools’ mental health intervention systems.
Schools provide an excellent venue for enhancing the social-emotional skills and wellbeing of Canadian children and youth, and for identifying and supporting the 20% of students who struggle with a mental health problem. Moreover, the school mental health literature is clear in terms of both (1) what is needed to support student mental health, and (2) how these efforts must be initiated in order to bring evidence-based practices to scale in a sustainable manner across a province, territory or nation. However, research has identified systemic, knowledge, and implementation barriers that prevent the promise of school mental health from reaching fruition in Canada. School system leadership has been identified as a critical mediating influence for addressing these challenges. While there is increasing interest and effort in building educator mental health literacy at the classroom level, less attention has been given to preparing and supporting school and system leaders for their important role in leading mentally healthy schools. In this discussion paper, the Canadian Association of School System Administrators (CASSA) asserts the need for concerted and coordinated support for school system leadership in this area, and invites input from members and others towards the development of a collaborative capacity-building plan.
Just like physical health, to sustain and optimize mental health requires personal attention and self-care within a broader system of coordinated support. Schools have an important role to play within this comprehensive system of support, in terms of (1) nurturing the skills, attitudes, knowledge and habits that promote positive mental health, (2) identifying signs of difficulty for students with social/emotional needs, and (3) supporting students to, from, and through mental health care when necessary (Short, 2016). Multi-tiered systems of support that are focused on simultaneously promoting positive mental health for all students, preventing social-emotional difficulties for students at risk, and supporting interventions for those experiencing significant mental health distress have been identified as the most promising model for schoolbased mental health services (Kutash, Duchnowski, ; Lynn, 2006; Stephan, Sugai, Lever ; Connors, 2015). To ensure that students receive the right level of service at the right time, these school-based multi-tiered systems must be nested within a broader system of care that includes community partners, as depicted below in Figure 1. That is, the role of schools focuses primarily on promotion, prevention, and brief intervention services. Working closely alongside community and health care organizations ensures support for students who need more intensive clinical services
insufficient organizational architecture to provide the necessary foundations for effective practices in school mental health at the district or school level (e.g., lack of common language, protocols, role clarity, leadership teams, strategy alignment, cross-sectoral collaboration). 2. Knowledge Challenges – shortcomings in mental health literacy and capacity within school boards across Canada (e.g., lack of educator knowledge, skills, and confidence related to identifying student concerns, providing ongoing support and/or offering student instruction related to mental health as part of curriculum). 3. Implementation Challenges – limitations related to access, alignment, and logistics that interfere with seamless uptake of evidence-based practices (e.g., as evidence-based manualized programs are costly to adopt, adapt, and implement with fidelity, they are rarely offered to scale in a sustainable manner).
To make a collective impact on these areas of challenge requires coordinated and systematic effort within and across districts and provinces. School system leaders have a critical role in supporting this work, but to date there has been a lack of national leadership and related resource development in this regard. As the Canadian organization representing school system leaders, the Canadian Association of School System Administrators (CASSA) is well-positioned to take a central role in assisting school board leaders to address the challenges that hinder the promise of school mental health in Canada. C. The Role of the School System Leader With the assistance of targeted resources and tools, school system leaders can develop the capacity for addressing systemic, knowledge, and implementation challenges in their district so that school mental health practices can be used optimally to reach every student. In response to systemic challenges, the school system leader has a critical role in establishing the organizational conditions that are foundational for effective practices in school mental health. A list of these conditions can be found in Figure 3, and more information about each of these elements can be found here. A reflection tool is offered in Appendix A, to allow for self-assessment of each of these conditions
As the thoughtful introduction of school mental health into academic life in many cases involves change and growth, systemic thinking, and systemic leadership, is critical for ensuring success for all schools, for all students (American Association of School Administrators, 2008; Fullan, 2006). Moreover, mechanisms for change uptake identified within the implementation science literature can be applied fruitfully to leadership in school mental health (Fixsen et al., 2005). Applying this transformational leadership approach to school mental health is a natural step, but because many of the fundamental structures and processes for effective practice in this area are not consistently well-developed in Canadian schools and school districts, this may reach beyond the current expertise and comfort of system and school leaders
In addition, school system leader capacity involves (2) demonstration of a set of leadership skills that are particular to supporting board and school-level organizational conditions for effective practices in school mental health. This skillset draws upon foundational leadership capacities related to vision-setting, team-building, communication, strategic planning, systemic professional learning, and progress monitoring.
How is it related to educational leadership – support from all levels teachers, administrators students working together towards a common goal. available to school boards to enhance the capacity of school “Grade 7 was a difficult year. Leaders and staff to support positive mental health among students. Because this is such a complex topic, capacity-building efforts
But as a teacher, what can you do to make a difference in the mental well being of your students? The answer is not always easy, and requires cooperation at all levels of the education system and a positive collaboration with health care providers.
Educators and school personnel are in an ideal position to recognize behavioural or emotional changes, which may be symptomatic of the onset of mental illness.
Talk about intervention programs, improve mental health literacy in educators and health professionals. (such as social workers, guidance counseling, school psychologists) in the identification and support of young people at risk for or living with a mental disorder. Schools can also address students’ mental health through the implementation of mental health promotion strategies through innovative curriculum initiatives. Improving mental health literacy through curriculum development and application could enhance knowledge and change attitudes in students and teachers alike, and embedding mental health as a component of health promoting activities
Support the development of policies and plans that recognize the importance of integration of mental health into educational institutions. Curriculum: Support the application of a mental health curriculum, which in turn provides health promotion and addresses stigma through scientific knowledge. Support system: Implement infrastructures and support systems within your school; for example establish a mental health task force that can pioneer a program including gatekeepers, student services expertise, community links, etc. Teacher training: Support the development and implementation of appropriate professional mental health training programs for teachers and other educators. Being a teacher is not easy, especially in today’s rapidly changing world. Mental disorders in young people are now being increasingly recognized and educators are being asked to address those needs in the classroom and beyond. Understanding what these issues are and the many different avenues available to effectively deal with them is an important challenge in today’s educational environment.
“If you want to change people’s practices and beliefs, you have to alter patterns of communication and build new kinds of relationships among them” (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012, p. 105). The transparency of information allows teachers and staff to exchange
Hargreaves, A. & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional capital: transforming teaching in every school. New York: Teachers College Press.