Happy Students Graduate

group of people sitting on bench near trees duting daytime
Photo by Naassom Azevedo / Unsplash

Happy students graduate. That statement in itself may not seem mind blowing, but it is a fair statement with wide implications. Do you realize that the number one reason students drop out is depression? Previously seen with stigma, mental services and support for wellbeing have become more commonplace and more importantly, a necessity. Many colleges have realized this and are taking actions to keep students happy and therefore successful.

There has been a dramatic increase in mental health concerns specifically among college students over the past decade. In 2018 one in three college students reported symptoms consistent with at least one mental health disorder. One in five have contemplated suicide.

What is going on? And what are colleges doing to combat the latest threat to their students wellbeing?

One in three students suffer from depression or anxiety. One in five suffer from addiction of alcohol or drugs. Lack of adequate sleep, low or no physical activity, and a never silenced smart phone all take their toll. Many Generation Z students lack basic coping mechanisms to deal with the daily stress of college.

About 50% of students with a mental health disorder will not seek out help. Below is how one college is rising to the challenge of being proactive for the low price of 75 cents to $3 a student.

Colorado State University has implemented the YOU at College app, a student wellbeing portal with interactive tools. YOU is not presented to the students as a mental health application, but as a wellbeing tool used to promote success. Based on a Pinterest type style it is appealing to a student’s familiar comfort zone from social media. The app is personalized to meet each individuals unique needs. Available 24 hours a day on smart phone or tablet, it travels with the students.

Students take ‘reality checks’ to gage their stress levels and overall wellbeing. When necessary, holistic solutions to improve happiness is suggested such as meditation, tips on adapting a healthy diet, or how to improve sleep habits. The app helps students identify problems, provides solutions, allows the users to set goals, and links to resources available.

Experts agree that apps alone will not replace in person services. There are many type of resources that can be offered. Below are some of my favorite solutions.

Peer Support Groups: Ithaca College is one among many that has incorporated peer-led mental health advocacy group, Active Minds https://www.activeminds.org/ . This group is a nationwide non-profit group that believes in promoting conversations and ending stigma on mental health issues.

Phone Triage: Ohio State has a phone triage that screen students who call for help. Councilors speak with students and determine how quickly assistance from a therapist or outside referral is needed. Many colleges offer crisis phone lines available 24 hours a day with access to immediate support.

Mindfulness Programs: UCS is developing a mandatory mindfulness program for their first year attendees. The classes will focus on developing coping mechanisms, healthy relationships, emotional intelligence, self-care, and lifestyle design.

Art Therapy: Carleton College helps undergrads with depression and anxiety cope through drawing, writing, drawing, and group discussions.

Onsite Counselors: University of Southern California has imbedded councilors throughout the campus to ensure accessibility.

Web Based Tools: Penn State students use web based tools to identify depression and anxiety and try a 5 or 6 week treatment module using cognitive behavioral therapy before counseling.

With mental health being discussed more openly it is likely students and parents will be choosing colleges partly based on the mental health services offered. One thing is proven though, students are more likely to stay in school if they are happy. Happy students graduate.