As students return to campus full-time, there are critical ways to support their mental health and promote well-being

5 ways to help students thrive on campus

As students return to campus full-time, there are critical ways to support their mental health and promote well-being

A new survey led by The Ohio State University’s Office of the Chief Wellness Officer finds students are excited to get back to campus after a long and difficult year. But the trauma of the pandemic is still having a profound effect on their mental health.

The survey found anxiety, depression, and burnout are all on the rise among students, even as they find normalcy again. Those issues have also led to increases in unhealthy coping mechanisms such as vaping, drinking and eating unhealthy foods. The survey findings are similar to other data on college students throughout the U.S.

“In August 2020, the first time we did the survey, student burnout was at 40 percent. In April 2021, it was 71 percent,” said Bernadette Melnyk, chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing at Ohio State. “The survey really brought students’ continued mental health struggles to light, and it is crucial that we arm students with the resilience, cognitive-behavioral skills and coping skills that we know are protective against mental health disorders.”

That’s why Melnyk and leaders at Ohio State and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are working to expand evidence-based programs and resources and to integrate them into the curriculum to help students prioritize their mental health.

Experts are using data from the survey to develop new programs based on the needs of different subgroups of students and have released a new “5 to Thrive” checklist to help students support their mental health and well-being as they settle back into campus life.

The behaviors and practices highlighted on the checklist include information on healthy habits, finding mental health support, and not waiting too long to find that support.

“Students are often overloaded with their regular coursework, so when they’re offered these wonderful programs they sometimes just see them as one more thing to do,” Melnyk said. “By making them part of their classes and campus life and ensuring students know exactly where to go for help as they need it, we can really impact a lot more lives and give these students skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives.”

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