Why Mental Health Must Be at the Forefront of Your Return to Campus Strategy
Higher education leaders are facing a dynamic set of challenges that pose truly existential threats to their institution and the communities they serve. For the last few months, COVID-related considerations of when and how to reopen were further complicated by the question of who will still show up – a cherry-on-top concern that caps off nearly a decade of declining enrollment. In-person, hybrid, or remote—campuses have an urgent responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their students, staff, and faculty.
While physical health is paramount, the pandemic has been ravaging to the mental health of students and employees alike. Growing rates of depression and anxiety had long resulted in counseling center waitlists and strained resources. COVID-19 has piled on loneliness, loss, isolation, uncertainty, and financial hardship while simultaneously stripping away access to care and support services.
The data are clear: the mental wellbeing of students is a key variable in the formula of academic success, retention, and career readiness. The connection to these mission-critical priorities–and the tendency for current efforts to be disjointed, reactive, misaligned, and human capital intensive–makes the issue of mental health a strategic and system-wide imperative for senior leaders.
It can be hard, if not impossible, to fight fires when 15 alarms are sounding and there’s only capacity to respond to two or three. An expansive and strategic lens around return on investment can help campus leaders connect the dots, find efficiencies, and drive outcomes in overlapping priorities.