Educators help promote the mental well-being of students on campus
Dr Pooja Mohanty
Universities, institutions and colleges have seen a sharp increase in mental illness and emotional distress for years, but more so after the Covid-19 pandemic. Typically, adolescents face profound changes encompassing not only physical maturation, but the emergence of an autonomous self, rejection, parental authority, increased responsibilities socially and academically, and a desire for intimacy with others. . Therefore, they are more likely to suffer from high levels of depressive syndromes, anxiety and stress compared to other age groups. This year, as we celebrate World Mental Health Day on the 10the October we focus on young people and students as they restructure society with their thoughts, emotions and actions.
Well-being and mental health are fundamental to student success and their holistic functioning. Improving student well-being requires a holistic approach to the institution and educational innovations that improve mental health and well-being. This will help enable students to not only achieve their highest academic potential, but also bring them closer to their meaning and purpose in this life. An integrated approach from school leadership, campus mental health professionals, faculty, students and staff is essential to identify both internal campus sources and external sources of student crisis. .
A state of well-being is more than the mere absence of mental disorders and encompasses experiences associated with personal growth, intrinsic motivation, positive relationships, empowerment and competence. Therefore, the mission of higher education should be to develop a holistic being who is physically and mentally fit to face the crisis of life and to develop resilience in the process.
Academics can play a crucial role in promoting student growth and well-being. It is also because the academic curriculum gives coherence to student life. University educators are those who design and deliver the program. Therefore, there is great potential for university teachers to promote the mental well-being of students through teaching, innovation, and the intentional design of learning environments that could be resource-rich for students. Supporting student mental health does not mean that educators primarily have to become psychologists or mental health professionals, as it may not be their job to make students happy or to help students solve their problems. mental distress. However, it is their job to facilitate student learning, adopting assessment approaches informed by psychological principles and research that can help alleviate psychological stressors in the environment. Good mental health is essential for effective learning. Therefore, applying these approaches can make the holistic growth of a student possible.
In the current situation, the above may seem easy but difficult to do due to the structural conditions of higher education. Underfunding, online mode of teaching, assessment, increased student numbers, mass delivery, increased workload, insecurity also compromise mental well-being teachers and academic staff. This all counts for the challenges facing the university and colleges, but if an integrated approach is taken by employing techniques for all of university growth, there can be hope.
Student well-being can involve engaging curricula, creating supportive environments, community awareness, dissemination of knowledge, skills, and access to services. Good curriculum design involves designing learning activities that engage students in their deep and creative learning. Encourage students to build on their learning, offer real life experiences, encourage students to make sense of their experiences and understand the world, bring them closer to their goals, interests, values, enable them to apply knowledge, practice their skills, promote interaction with peers and provide opportunities for students to self-assess their learning.
There are few steps involved in designing a curriculum that supports student mental health. Instead of normative scoring, skill assessments and feedback can be adopted. Greater flexibility should be encouraged in approaching their tasks or subjects and restructuring the traditional content of the study program. Reduce contact hours to increase personal time and other commitments, equip students to deal with stress, uncertainty, unknowns and conflict, encourage students to find meaning, purpose, wisdom and positivity to their assigned tasks can lead them to empower themselves in the management of stressors.
Mental health difficulties can often interfere with a student’s ability to perform or perform tasks successfully. While it is not the role of a university teacher to manage or counsel distressed students directly, he or she may take on the responsibility of helping students deal with the effects of mental health difficulties through referrals. Identifying their signs is the first step through careful observation of students appearing to be disengaged, overwhelmed or emotionally fragile, underachieving or unable to cope with a difficult atmosphere, exhibiting high levels of anxiety, feeling isolated and disconnected.
Teachers acting as gatekeepers of referrals to mental health professionals can be the first preventative step. The reference is needed in the following situation.
- Students exhibiting behavior that may present imminent danger to themselves and to others.
- It is not known what options are available to students.
- Teachers may feel overwhelmed and cannot help but think about the personal circumstances of students.
- As teachers, they would like to talk about how you want to handle the situation in the classroom.
Students in psychological distress mainly turn to teachers for advice and can reveal their personal difficulties and these exchanges can be very uncomfortable. Exposure of emotions can be overwhelming and take the form of tears, despair, demands, obsession or aggression. The content can be disturbing, including stories of sexual or domestic violence, conflict, trauma, death, loss or self-harm. While there is no single best approach to answering it, it is good to be clear about your role as an academic teacher as to what can be offered and what cannot and what cannot be offered. which is appropriate.
As university teachers, it is best to follow guided practice in the form of dos and don’ts.
- Students should be motivated and ready to accept help, they should not be rushed or pushed.
- Guarantee confidentiality in terms of time and place with limited interruptions in conversations.
- Students may not find the right words to express their emotions or situations, in such cases it is best to paraphrase and listen carefully.
- It is good not to undermine or ignore student signs or feelings.
- Keep the option for students to choose the help or support you want to provide in terms of referral.
- Suggesting options, encouraging them to seek help, and keeping in close contact with the therapist on campus makes the task smooth.
- Do not promise confidentiality if the student presents with thoughts of harming or killing herself. It should be a practice in other circumstances.
- Do not analyze the motivations of the pupils (for example, “you are having problems because you cannot submit your assignment by the deadline”.)
- Don’t argue, lecture, ridicule, or minimize their experiences (“I think you are overreacting”)
- Don’t ask questions that involve judgment or blame. (“Why haven’t you told someone that before?” “)
- Do not share your own experiences of trauma, abuse, grief and loss. (“I went through the same years before and got through it “)
- Do not try to comfort or physically comfort a student by holding their hand or hugging them
As educators, our mission and vision for higher education is to develop a holistic student who is physically and mentally fit to face success and failure in the same stride. As Rupert Brooke so eloquently puts it, does our higher education completely escape key life issues leaving our young students? “Beautifully unprepared for the long littleness of life? “The dreams of our brightest and best students are those who have consciously taken root in them through the social conditioning of parents and teachers. It is time to work towards making education a higher dimension of enlightenment. rather than a gradual discovery of our ignorance.
(The author is a psychotherapist, at XLRI, Jamshedpur. She has a PhD from the Department of Psychiatric Social Work, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, India. She recently completed a training Mindful Cognitive Behavior Teacher Therapy at Oxford University, UK The views expressed are the personal opinion of the author.)