Everyone Can Contribute to Student Well-Being

Author: 
Wellness Resource Center
Peaceful Sunset by Giuseppe Milo

The scope of the faculty role is changing. Complex topics may come up more frequently and students expect that they will be discussed. Mental health and well-being is a growing concern among college students and is receiving national attention. While this larger conversation about mental health is helpful in reducing stigma and encouraging more folks to seek help, it also creates new challenges for faculty.

 

Talking about mental health, or other personal topics, may be outside of one’s experience and comfort level. Regardless, we know that many aspects of life impact how students show up in the classroom. According to the National College Health Assessment[1], there are many factors that impact students’ academic performance including, but not limited to, stress, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, depression, sickness (cold, flu, etc.), and extracurricular activities. When faculty acknowledge these factors and share support resources, student experiences can improve.

 

Ultimately, faculty can only control what happens in their classroom, but the good news is that there are ways that they can contribute to a community that cares about well-being and student success. Here are a few examples:

 

Help students build life skills.

  • Encourage students to take care of themselves and resist the idea that they need to be productive 24/7.  For example, make assignments due at 9:00 pm rather than midnight. This can help students develop time management skills and prioritize sleep. Students may have to think ahead a bit more, but once a course policy is established, students are likely to abide by it.
  • Provide clarity around what expectations they can have about communicating with you. You can provide boundaries around email response time. If you have a statement in your syllabus that says students shouldn’t expect a response from you after 10:00pm on weeknights, hold yourself to that when possible. This also helps to model what boundaries can look like in regard to communication via various virtual platforms.

 

Build your skills to feel more confident responding to concerns that arise.

  • Training is available through the Wellness Resource Center with the aim of supporting colleagues interested in promoting student wellness and resilience. Training topics include how to have effective conversations with students, suicide prevention, and contributing to creating a safer campus environment for students who have experienced sexual assault. Learn more about training opportunities here. 
  • Refer to the Student Safety Nest guide for faculty, instructors, and staff. It includes guiding principles, observable signs of concern, and information about accessing campus resources. This resource can be helpful in expanding on some of the information in this post, as well as how to navigate campus resources.

 

Normalize help-seeking.

  • Share that there are many pathways to seek help and provide information about campus resources. Seeking support looks different for everyone. Sources of informal support can include friends, family, and practicing self-care. Formal support can include seeking counseling or therapy, consultation with a health provider of some type (nurse, doctor, dietician, etc.), or academic assistance such as tutoring or mentoring. There are many opportunities for support at Temple, some of which students may not be fully aware of. Receiving information about sources of support from faculty can remind students of what exists.
  • Encourage students to be self-advocates and access campus resources when they need support. Some students may not have experience navigating larger institutions like Temple, or even making appointments for themselves. Encourage them to be persistent and proactive in accessing services and resources that can help them succeed and be well. By doing this, faculty can help build students’ self-efficacy and reduce any lingering stigma around help-seeking.

 

Faculty can support student mental well-being in the classroom and do so in ways that remain within ethical and professional boundaries. Content expertise isn’t necessary either. By creating an inclusive environment and encouraging students to build life skills, all faculty can contribute to creating a community where well-being is a priority.

 

The Wellness Resource Center (WRC) is Temple University’s health promotion office. The WRC offers a variety of intentional learning opportunities to promote well-being and cultivate community. Services include peer-led workshops, campus-wide events, staff and faculty training, wellness consultations, and safer sex supply sales. Learn more about these services and how to request programming at wellness.temple.edu or connect with the WRC on social media (Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook) @BeWellTU.

Photo by Giuseppe Milo, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) License. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View, CA 94042, USA.
 

[1] American College Health Association. (2019). National college health assessment: Fall 2018 undergraduate reference group executive summary. Retrieved from https://www.acha.org/documents/ncha/NCHA-II_Fall_2018_Undergraduate_Reference_Group_Executive_Summary.pdf

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