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Mental Health Matters: Tech and Telehealth in Higher Ed

Mental Health Matters: Tech and Telehealth in Higher Ed

Mental Health Matters: Tech and Telehealth in Higher Ed

College is a time of transition and transformation. Students leave home for the first time, navigate intricate social systems, tackle challenging courses, and face questions and situations that form their identities. College can also be a time of turmoil, particularly when it comes to mental health.

1 in 5 college students has a mental health condition. Over the last thirty years, the number of students who report feeling significantly overwhelmed has increased substantially. In 2019, 29.5% of students reported that anxiety impacted their academic performance. 21.6% said depression impacted their studies. And two-thirds of those students who experience anxiety and depression will not seek treatment.

These statistics are sobering.

Thankfully, mental health has gained momentum across college campuses. Today, more than ever, social emotional learning on our college campuses is at the forefront. Student success now includes how they manage their emotions, develop positive relationships, set goals, and make conscientious decisions. Counseling centers are expanding their staff. College presidents are having conversations about the importance of mental health in promoting student success. Students are uniting to raise their voices.

How is higher education addressing mental health?

Higher Ed institutions are making mental health a priority from Day One: including conversations about mental health from both student and administrative perspectives in their student orientations. Experts note that the primary challenge is to break down the stigma surrounding speaking about mental illness. Movements like #StopTheStigma promote an open dialogue on campuses for students, administrators, and alumni to share their own experiences. This breaks down the barriers to allow open and transparent conversations about mental health.

How does technology enter the picture?

Technology does not have to be the demon in this story; rather, it can also be a key to addressing the devastating and costly effects of mental health issues among young adults.”

Elizabeth Bradley, President of Vassar College

With counseling centers often overburdened, colleges are turning to innovative means to provide resources.

From hosting resiliency trainings to offering online assessments that end with resources and treatment recommendations, schools are turning to digital forums to educate students and assess mental health. Free hotlines, online portals for student health services, and mindfulness tools are all different applications of this digital strategy.

Northwestern University, for example, created an application called “Breathe” that provides guided meditations for its students. Colorado State launched YOU at College in 2015 – a platform that has since been launched at dozens of other universities. It teaches students about mental health in the context of all-around student success and wellness. Purdue University launched WellTrack in 2018: an application that enables students to track their moods and provides them with tools to address challenges.

How is COVID-19 impacting student mental health services?

With the recent exodus from campuses across the nation, student health centers are relying on technology to provide services. Telehealth has come to the forefront in counseling.

Mental health is more critical than ever in this time and space where students face uncertainty and upheaval. Some schools are hosting virtual meditations or yoga classes. Others are creating websites with resources for students in crisis. NAMI, or the National Alliance on Mental Illness, hosts online community discussion groups. This turn to technology is critical for the continuity of mental health care.

Prior to the pandemic, 3.5% of college counseling centers used video telehealth tools. These video tools, can be employed for telehealth provision and group sessions. Today’s crisis gives colleges the opportunity to expand access to care through new technologies as distance learning becomes ever more important.

Mental Health Matters

Mental health matters: whether you are eighteen or eighty. This Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s stop the stigma, educate ourselves and our students, and build a tomorrow where all students have access to mental health care, anywhere and at any time.

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