(BPT) - Even before the pandemic, mental health professionals at schools were concerned that support services for students were insufficient to keep up with demand. The last few years have further deepened this mental health crisis — beginning as early as elementary school and persisting through college campuses nationwide.
Recent publications by the American Psychological Association and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) confirm what faculty and administrators already know: Today's students need a lot more support — flexible, accessible, and proactive support — in order to thrive.
Stressors contributing to this crisis today go beyond those caused by the pandemic and are not just about academics. The recent NASPA study found the most significant causes to be personal/family-related, financial issues, and diagnosed mental health concerns. Challenges are even greater for students balancing multiple work and family obligations. And the crisis is not limited to students: In the NASPA study, nearly 3 in 4 respondents agreed that student, faculty, and staff mental health have all declined over the past year, highlighting the need for a holistic approach supporting the entire campus community.
How institutions can respond to student needs
Because many students are juggling study, work and family, a successful student support program must be easily accessible, and must also address student needs beyond mental health concerns.
For example, at DeVry University, students are provided with a personalized support team that includes a Student Support Advisor and Career Advisor. Students can also access a variety of useful tools, free of charge through their StudentLinc program, which offers an array of emotional well-being and life-balance resources and support whenever and wherever they're needed.
StudentLinc offers guidance to help students address everyday issues, through short-term counseling from licensed clinicians available 24/7, 365 days a year, therapy via text with licensed counselors Monday-Friday, digital group support via live sessions hosted by licensed counselors — plus other resources, training, and referrals to help address challenges like child or elder care, adoption, pet care, home repair, education and housing. For students unsure of what assistance they need, they can access a Mental Health Navigator to receive personalized guidance for program support and resources.
Beyond mental health support, StudentLinc also provides free legal consultations with a local attorney, consultations with financial experts and more, via phone, on the web and via mobile apps.
"By making sure every student can access each service at no additional cost and with complete confidentiality, we encourage our students to feel secure and comfortable making the most of these resources to help them pursue their education and career goals, despite the challenges they may face," said Elise Awwad, chief operating officer at DeVry.
Providing holistic support extends well beyond the student body
To create a culture beneficial for all members of the community, it's vital to provide health and wellness resources for everyone on campus.
DeVry offers wellness support for employees through an Accolade Health Assistant and nurse at no cost to employees. Their team can help create a confidential mental health plan that works for each individual seeking that resource. Employees can also access the Ginger app, offering confidential mental health care through services like unlimited access to coaching via text-based chats and self-guided activities.
In addition, the university provides employees and their families with a comprehensive Employee Assistance Program through EmployeeConnect, including unlimited, online assistance 24/7 via phone, online or through their mobile app. Employees can access free information and referrals on family matters such as child and elder care, pet care, vacation planning, moving, car buying and college planning; legal information and referrals for family law, estate planning and financial guidance — plus online resources including articles, videos and interactive tools like budgeting worksheets. Employees can also access in-person guidance or consultation with counselors or network lawyers as needed.
"It's crucial to offer effective, holistic support for our students, faculty, and staff," added Dave Barnett, chief human resources and university relations officer at DeVry. "Our Culture of Care is rooted in the belief of care for oneself, care for our colleagues, and students. We provide opportunities for everyone to share stories, discuss relevant issues, and take mental health breaks, so staff and faculty will be at their very best, both for themselves and for our students."
To learn more about all the ways DeVry University provides a supportive campus environment, visit DeVry.edu.