It's evident that student mental health is a top priority for students and higher-ed leaders--here's how to support it

5 trends in student mental health

It's evident that student mental health is a top priority for students and higher-ed leaders--here's how to support it

Key points:

Student mental health and well-being is a major focus area for higher-ed institutions across the nation, particularly as schools emerge from the pandemic and seek to address the growing number of students who experience mental health crises, food and housing insecurity, and other stressors that negatively impact their educational experience and success.

With mental health and student well-being becoming a bigger priority for institutions, here are some of the latest developments, trends, and supports:

1. Prospective students want more mental health support on campus. A new survey from education company EAB shows that nearly one-third (28 percent) of high school students who are currently applying or considering applying to college cite mental health concerns as a reason they may choose to delay enrollment or opt out of college entirely. Almost half (48 percent) of all students surveyed indicated that “stress and anxiety overshadow their college search and planning.”

2. Institutions should prioritize opportunities to help students develop healthy social connections and foster meaningful relationships with other students. Too many social media platforms today prioritize engagement with the platform rather than with the people on the platform. Additionally, students’ constant exposure in social media to curated, idealized versions of other students’ “stories” can amplify feelings of inadequacy and lead to a distorted sense of reality – all while exacerbating the Imposter Syndrome felt by so many students today.

3. 4 ways higher-ed can improve student mental health support: In 2023, Texas A&M University launched a mental health button in Canvas. For the remainder of the Spring 2023 semester, the button received over 20,000 unique student clicks. Most notable was that 13-15 percent of the clicks at any given time increment were from within academic content in the learning management system. This means that students are reviewing the gradebook, completing a course assignment, or engaging with module content and bouncing to the mental health button on the global navigation of Canvas LMS. At Texas A&M University, students are advocating for mental health resources on behalf of themselves and their fellow Aggies. Furthermore, what we see with Gen Z, possibly for the first time ever in a generation, with respect to mental health, is an advocacy that is working in service to de-stigmatize mental health. We are all benefitting from their relentless efforts. 

4. Wellness centers grow as institutions focus on mental health. In a 2021 survey at Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County Community College (MCCC), 80 percent of students said their mental health impacted their academic work at least once a week, including concerns about food and housing. Based on that survey, MCCC moved forward on what would eventually become the Wellness Center at MCCC. One of the Wellness Center’s main goals is to reduce the stigma around seeking help for mental health struggles and mental health challenges.

5. A new initiative targets online students’ mental health. The Online Learning Consortium (OLC), a collaborative community of higher education leaders, and Uwill, a student mental health and wellness solution for higher education, have formed a new partnership that will establish Uwill as OLC’s exclusive educational teletherapy partner. OLC is emphasizing the importance of student mental health as part of its mission to foster community and knowledge around quality online, blended, and digital learning while driving innovation. Uwill and OLC have committed to conducting joint research in the fall to offer insight into the mental health needs of online learners and how to best support them.

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Laura Ascione

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