These are trying times for all of us, but some groups may be more significantly impacted by COVID-19 than others. College students are a prime example.

As colleges and universities have struggled with how to offer classes and health services this fall and look ahead to the spring semester, they’ve taken a variety of approaches including on-site, virtual, and hybrid. As restrictions related to the virus have ebbed and flowed, so have decisions about how to best provide mental health services to college students.

Anxiety and Depression in College Students

College students, already an at-risk population for mental health challenges, are especially at risk for anxiety and depression now as many have found their educational aspirations put on hold as they miss traditional opportunities for in-person gatherings ranging from sporting events to live graduation ceremonies.

As Inside Higher Ed points out: “A mountain of troubling data about rising mental health problems has health advocates and providers worried about the need for additional support for struggling students and the ability of colleges to provide it. They point to research from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicating that 58% of students surveyed said they were “moderately,” “very” or “extremely” worried about their mental health. 

What should colleges be doing to address anxiety and depression in college students, especially as many are away from campus?

Address College Students' Mental Health & Well-Being

Equip your students with essential skills and information to better navigate the stressors and emotional challenges associated with college life.

Best Practices for Adapting Mental Health Services for College Students

Here are some best practice options for colleges and universities as they seek ways to help students protect and improve their mental health during the pandemic:

  • Continue to work hard to destigmatize mental health issues. TThe pandemic has already done this to a certain degree by raising the realization that nearly everyone is emotionally impacted by the anxiety and uncertainty around the virus. But there are other opportunities for schools to help break down stigma—sharing statistics and stories about how students are struggling with, and addressing, mental health issues. This also includes sharing stories from professors, administrators, staff and others who are also dealing with the pandemic’s impact on their mental health.
  • Offer mental health resources in a variety of formats. While schools may not be operating in-person right now and, potentially, may remain remote to a certain degree as we move forward, there are plenty of ways for students to access the resources they need if universities make them widely and readily available. This could include everything from FAQs and fact sheets, to synchronous or asynchronous wellness webinars, to telehealth offerings to online support groups. It’s a good time to get creative around making resources available for students.
  • Offer easy-to-access physical health offerings to positively impact college student mental health. Exercise programs and tips, yoga, deep breathing and mindfulness classes and opportunities to interact with campus health and wellness experts can help to keep the issue top-of-mind and ensure students are utilizing some of the resources available to them.
  • Seek feedback and input. Make it easy for students to share information about their needs related to any anxiety or depression they may be feeling. Ask for their ideas about the types of resources that might help them the most right now. Track and monitor trends over time.

The serious impact of anxiety and depression for college students has long been known. During the pandemic, however, these impacts are being heightened—as they are for many others. Universities have an important role to play in offering solutions to help college students address anxiety and depression concerns both now and upon their return to campus.

Support Student's Mental Health & Well-Being

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