Supporting Your Students’ Mental Health and Wellness

Author: 
Linda Hasunuma & Cliff Rouder
Supporting Your Students’ Mental Health and Wellness

This month the CAT partnered with the Dean of Students Office, Wellness Resource Center, and the CARE Team to provide a workshop for faculty to learn how they can support student mental health and wellness. Rachael Stark, Senior Associate Dean of Students; Megan McCloskey, Associate Director, CARE Team; Alison McKee, Director, Wellness Resource Center; and Janie Egan, Mental Well-Being Program Coordinator, Wellness Resource Center shared strategies and resources to help faculty be proactive in identifying students who may be struggling--ensuring they get the support they need during this challenging time.

 

This was an especially valuable workshop as we are still facing the uncertainty and challenges of an ongoing pandemic on top of the many other stressors of the past year and a half. We share the highlights of the workshop in a question and answer format.

 

How can you support your students’ mental health and wellness in class?

  • Include a mental health syllabus statement. A sample is available in the Student Safety Nest Guide. (You’ll see the link to this resource at the end of the blog.)
  • Include periodic reminders about resources beyond the first week of class.
  • Talk openly about well-being and self-care (and the connection to academic performance). This can help normalize help-seeking.

What are possible signs of students’ mental distress?

Students may still hesitate to reach out for support, so in addition to the suggestions above, another thing you can do is to be aware of possible signs of mental distress, including

  • Physical signs: Significant changes in energy, worrisome changes in hygiene, regularly sleeping in class
  • Emotional signs: Emotional outbursts, written/verbal expressions of hopelessness, exaggerated personality traits
  • Behavioral signs: Verbally aggressive, verbal/written threats, demanding a lot of time
  • Academic signs: Repeated absences, seeking of special provisions, ranting emails

If you do see these signs, reach out to your students and invite them to come talk to you.

 

What if a student does come to talk to me?

One helpful approach for providing informal, yet skillful support, is to use the Validate, Appreciate, Refer (VAR) model, developed by Active Minds. Here are examples of what you can say using the VAR model:

 

VALIDATE Feelings

Example response: “I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling. You have a lot going on.”

 

APPRECIATE Vulnerability

Example response: “I know it isn't easy to talk about this with an instructor. I really appreciate that you shared this with me.”

 

REFER to Services

Example response: “How familiar are you with campus resources? Is it okay if I share some info that might be relevant?” It’s helpful to share several resources and let the student decide based on their comfort level.

 

What campus resources can I suggest?

Crisis, Assessment, Response, Education (CARE) Team

If you have a concern about a student based on something they may have said or done, or if they’re not showing up and have not communicated with you after reaching out, we recommend you contact the CARE Team. If you are not sure the concern merits a CARE Team referral, they would still like you to reach out to them, and they will advise you. The CARE Team is composed of a diverse group of representatives from key student support offices across the University, e.g.,Tuttleman Counseling Services, Disability Resources and Services, and the TUPD, who evaluate the referral and determine the next course of action.

 

Tuttleman Counseling Services

If a student is in need of counseling, Tuttleman provides valuable resources for mental health support. Students need to register for services by filling out a form on their website M-F 10 am - 1:30 pm. A counselor will reach out within 24 hours. Please visit their website for more information about these and other services:

 

Disabilities Resource Services (DRS)

It’s important to remember that some students may have invisible disabilities (mental health) or have short term/temporary disabilities or injuries as well. If you have concerns and questions related to how you can best support a student who needs accommodations, please reach out to DRS For your convenience, you can make an appointment for an individual consult with the Director of DRS, Andrea Vassar, through the Center for the Advancement of Teaching at catbooking.temple.edu.

 

Wellness Resource Center (WRC)

The WRC offers intentional learning opportunities to promote student well-being and cultivate community. As Temple’s health promotion office, it provides services for students, such as the HEART Peer Education Program, free safer sex supplies, trainings, campus-wide events, and wellness consultations.

 

What resources are appropriate in an emergency situation?

Call Temple Police immediately at: 215-204-1234 (1-1234) if you are worried about your student’s safety or if they have already been harmed or need medical attention. Officers are trained in Mental Health First Aid and also use a referral call line to determine the best course of action for mental health emergencies. If the emergency is related to sexual assault, harassment, stalking, and dating or domestic violence, these must also be reported to the Title IX Office, which serves as an ally against discrimination, harassment and assault on the basis of sex, gender identity or gender expression.

 

What if I’m not sure whether it’s an emergency or not?

Refer to the guidance contained in the Faculty and Staff Referral Guide for information about what constitutes an emergency.

 

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We are very grateful to the facilitators of this workshop. If you have further questions or concerns, we encourage you to reach out to them directly: 

 

Rachael Stark, Senior Associate Dean of Students (rhstark@temple.edu)

Megan McCloskey, Associate Director, CARE Team (megan.woltemate@temple.edu)

Alison McKee, Director, WRC (amckee@temple.edu)

Janie Egan, Mental Well-Being Program Coordinator, WRC (janie@temple.edu).

 

These additional online resources can also be bookmarked for your reference.

As always, if you want to learn more about how to support student mental health and wellness in your classroom, please make an appointment for an individual consultation with a faculty developer at catbooking.temple.edu.

 

Linda Hasunuma, Ph.D. and Cliff Rouder, Ed.D. both work at Temple University's Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

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