Recently, the Surgeon General called for college campuses to “ramp-up” support as students experience more stress and drop out rates increase at colleges (Adedoyin, 2022). Not surprisingly, this call for action coincides with the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP) indicating that suicide death in the United States has increased from 45,979 to 48,183 between the years 2020 and 2021. Although faculty recognize the need for services and resources addressing mental health, many feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities of teaching, advising, mentoring, and research needed, or they may feel they are not trained to recognize mental health concerns.
As a professor and educational psychologist, I am greatly concerned by the mental health needs of students. I understand due to the rigor, complexity, and demands of education, many disciplines make it unfeasible for faculty to spend time on workshops or mental wellness presentations. As I brainstormed ways instructors could help students, I remembered the new and highly successful 988 crisis line and other hotlines (such as the text line 741741). Many institutions have signs on campus advertising these hotlines. In addition to this advertisement strategy, I began putting these numbers and our campus counseling center contact information in the signature lines of my emails.
Entering a signature line in your institutional email is quite simple. In fact, I’m sure many instructors list their contact information and job title(s) in signature lines. Adding hotline numbers and campus counseling center information to your signature line is an easy way to provide support to students. This new signature line reminds students each time they reach out to their instructor that these resources are available. My students also discover I am a strong advocate of their mental wellness and understand the value of counseling and crises hotlines. Students have responded very positively to the mental health information in my signature lines. They agree that mental health is a big concern for students on college campuses and are appreciative of my acknowledgement and support of their well-being.
In addition to adding mental health hotline information to my signature line, I also incorporate mental health information to students in other ways. The same mental health information in my signature line is also added to all of my syllabi. I include the mental health crisis hotlines and information about the counseling center on campus. Each syllabi also includes an acknowledgement statement about the importance of physical and mental health.
Our department developed a mission to stay proactive about mental health. Many institutions do well responding to tragedies, but are not incorporating proactive strategies on campus. To address this goal, we began providing the Mental Health First Aid program to our faculty, staff, administration, and students. This currently-free training provides information on signs and symptoms of mental health challenges, how to help an individual in crisis, and how to find resources to further aid an individual in crisis. The program also addresses the stigma surrounding mental health and helps participants recognize mental and physical health are equally vital.
Students at our university are given the opportunity to attend free mental health workshops, including mindfulness sessions, anxiety support groups, and destress events. Recently, our campus held its first “DeStress Before You Test” mental health fair that took place four days before final exams. In addition, departments and clubs on campus set up booths on our campus yards with activities such as making stress balls, adult coloring, petting therapy dogs, etc. Students stated that they loved these events and asked several times for these types of events to continue every year.
Our department goal is to help students recognize the importance of their well-being and understand that our entire campus acknowledges these struggles and has set in place proactive strategies to support them. Their needs must be met before we can expect students to succeed in the classroom. This support should be found among all members of the institution and be apparent to students. A signature line in an email providing mental health information to students is a great start to begin “ramping up” our mental health resources for students.
Dr. Tiffany Culver is an educational psychologist with teaching experience at both public and private institutions/universities. She currently holds the rank of assistant professor of psychology at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas. Prior to this, Dr. Culver taught as an associate professor at Sul Ross State University – Rio Grande College in Uvalde, Texas. At SRSU, the student body proudly recognized her as a “Faculty Favorite.” Dr. Culver accepted this heart-felt award from them in 2011-2012, 2017-2018 and 2019-2020. Dr. Culver has contributed to her field with several published peer-reviewed scholarly articles in the Journal of College Reading and Learning, College Teaching, and Delta Educational Journal. Currently, she has over 63 research presentations.
Adedoyin, O (2022). As more stressed-out students consider dropping out, Surgeon General pushes college leaders to ramp up support. Chronicle for Higher Education. https://www.chronicle.com/
American College Health Association (2022, August 30). https://www.acha.org
American Psychological Association (2022). Stress of mass shootings causing cascade of collective traumas. Monitor on Psychology, 53(6), 20.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (2023, February). 2021 CDC Suicide Death Data Intensifies
the Call for Continued Suicide Prevention Efforts. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/2021-cdc-suicide-death-data-intensifies-the-call-for-continued-suicide-prevention-efforts-301744226.html
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