To provide strategies and ideas to support students’ mental health through Covid-19 and beyond.
Covid-19, the virus that has been wreaking havoc on communities across the globe, has impacted college students’ mental well-being in crucial ways. The Healthy Minds Network, in collaboration with the American College Health Association, recently released a report that sheds light on the the factors that negatively impact students’ mental health most prominently, including financial stress, changes in living situation, potentially contracting the virus, as well as a high incidence of reports of witnessing race-based discrimination either in person or online. CITLS organized a timely session as part of the Inclusive Teaching & Excellence series during Mental IllnessAwareness Week in October 2020 on the topic of supporting students’ mental health through Covid and beyond, in collaboration with the Counseling Center, the Department of Psychology and the Neuroscience Program. The insights and strategies provided by the panelists can be of use to those who work with and interact with students.
Recommendations for Faculty and Staff
Make connections with students both inside and outside of the classroom
- Check in with students and enhance connections. For example, in a remote environment this may involve:
- Emailing students, especially once you have gotten to know them
- Hosting brief (5-10min) Zoom check-ins.
- Use knowledge acquired in the classroom as a tool for empowering students as well as an opportunity to disconnect from the news. For example, students can analyze data, interpret graphs, and assess information to make informed decisions. Additionally, promoting an intentional focus on class topics can provide students with a chance to regain some control over their daily experiences and a sense of grounding.
- Be realistic in your expectations and cultivate compassion. Stress and trauma can affect executive functioning. Here are some ways to carry this out:
- Simplify course expectations
- Make and maintain a clear schedule
- Decrease high stakes tests/assignments
- Respond to students with empathy
- Use concepts of clarity
- Limit surprises
- Provide students with choice and control
- Have flexibility when students are experiencing challenges
- Offer collaborative work opportunities for students
- Be clear and transparent in expectations.
- Help students relax during class by engaging in breathing exercises.
- Humanize your own experience by sharing how these issues are affecting you too.
- Affirm your students. Let them know you are proud of them.
In order to take care of others, take care of yourself too
- Make space and time to pause and reflect on the ways these concerns might be affecting you as well. For instance, talk to a trusted friend or colleague, reconnect with an old acquaintance, implement stress-relieving strategies such as exercise, mindfulness, meditation, journaling, good sleep, and prayer.
- Take breaks and disconnect from screens, cellphones, apps, and news to relieve stress and improve sleep.
- Create moments of joy, mindfulness, gratitude, compassion for yourself and others. For instance, write a letter to a friend, try a new recipe, list things that you are grateful for, take up or reconnect with a craft such as knitting and crochet.
- Like self-care, care for others is a positive way to protect us and help process emotions.
Faculty and staff can refer to the following resources to support students’ mental health:
The following resources are available to faculty and staff:
- Capital Blue Virtual Care App offers free medical and behavioral health visits to faculty and staff.
- Lafayette’s Employee Assistance Program offers assistance on a variety of topics, including emotional well-being, family and relationships, healthy lifestyles, and more.
Additional crisis resources: