The mental health of college students has declined since the onset of the pandemic. Early in the pandemic, one study indicated that 71% of students surveyed experienced an increase in stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 outbreak. More recently, over 95% of college students reported having experienced negative mental health symptoms due to the pandemic. As university counseling services are feeling this burden, colleges might need to consider supplementing traditional mental health support with some of these other creative ways to support student mental health.
Cognitive function is improved with a good nap. Consider offering a dedicated place on campus for students to catch some quick zzz’s. While some students may be able to head back to their dorm room, others, like commuter students, may not. Power napping has already been introduced on some cutting edge campuses across the country. Better rest supports better student mental health and wellbeing.
Spending time with animals can help reduce stress and support student mental health. Interacting with a therapy dog or other support animal is another creative way to help improve the mental wellbeing of your student population. The University of Minnesota, for example, introduced Pet Away Worry and Stress (PAWS), with good results and managed to shift to online support during the pandemic.
Sometimes students need the support of another student. While not a replacement for traditional therapy, peer counseling can be a bridge to help campus mental health services that are inundated with students seeking support. Whether in a group setting or with a one-on-one trained peer, students helping students is a creative solution that helps support student mental health and improve relational wellbeing at the same time.
As much of the world has gone virtual, so too has mental health support. Online support groups provide a safe way to connect with others who are struggling with some of the same issues. For those who prefer to not seek treatment on-campus, online support groups offer anonymity and acceptance for students facing issues ranging from anxiety to depression to addiction.
Students of faith may benefit from the support of others who share their beliefs, especially if they are attending a secular institution. Connecting students to faith resources on or off campus that allow students to talk about and explore their beliefs is a helpful way to support student mental health. Additionally, churches and other faith organizations often offer referral services to faith-based counselors as well.
Nutrition Counseling & Education
Good nutrition plays a vital role in student mental health. When students eat better, their energy, mood, and cognitive function improves. Helping college students make healthy cafeteria choices, understand the benefits of a plant-based diet, and grab healthy on-the-go breakfast options are all creative ways to support student mental health.
When it comes to supporting student mental health, don’t be afraid to think outside the box! Better wellbeing comes in unexpected ways, so providing a variety of creative resources for your students improves their ability to live happier and healthier lives.