While institutions of higher education have increased their focus on mental health and overall well-being in recent years, the need for these services has also risen drastically, and the pandemic has only compounded these needs.
Prevention Coordinator, Prevention Action Alliance
An increase in the number of students seeking support for mental health and basic needs on their campuses is at an all time high across the United States, so much so that many students have to wait months before they can get the help they need. Colleges and universities are doing their best to serve the high volume of students, but it isn’t enough. As students wait to get the help they need, there is a chance that they will resort to unhealthy coping strategies to deal with their problems, which only exacerbates the original issue.
So, how can we change this? Though institutions often function as distinct individual communities, it is important for campuses to develop partnerships with the surrounding neighborhoods as well. This interconnectivity benefits the institution as well as the broader community of which it is a part.
When on-campus professionals are able to provide students with off-campus resources — be it counseling, food banks, treatment services, or financial support — students develop stronger connections to the community. This often leads to an increase in civic engagement amongst students, which is also beneficial to economic development.
Once students are able to get the support they need, on or off campus, we will see higher retention and graduation rates, a decrease in high level mental health needs, and a decrease in off-campus issues. If we all work together to create a culture that supports the overall safety and well-being of youth and young adults, we can create a ripple effect where these very individuals will grow to carry on this culture in their own communities, allowing them to thrive.