The COVID-19 global pandemic has created an unprecedented strain on the mental health of students. Recent studies reveal that the impact is particularly significant for students preparing to enter college. Most notably, 61% of teenagers said that the pandemic has increased their feelings of loneliness, while 7 out of 10 reported that they struggle with mental health in some way. Additionally, many teenagers said they feel excess stress (45%) and deal with depression (43%). Consequently, the mental health crisis brought on by COVID-19 has changed the way students evaluate colleges and universities, specifically when it comes to providing mental health support for students.
A recent survey of prospective students found that 50% have changed their views on the importance of mental health support for students. To note, for higher education leaders, 60% of prospective students said that mental health services are a very important factor when selecting where they will go to school. Although 74% of students indicated that their opinions haven’t changed specifically because of COVID-19, the pandemic has clearly sped up the change in students’ perceptions of university mental health services.
Students Say Live Online Counseling is Key for Support
As the CDC continues to recommend social distancing measures while campuses plan for reopening in the fall, students have expressed a continued need for mental health services that can care for them both on and off campus. Additionally, both the CDC and AHCA made recommendations that virtual services be offered to students when possible, with the ACHA stating that many campuses can find an optimal balance between in-person and telemental care for students. With students determining how best to care for their health and well-being, 46% of students said live online counseling is a support service they would find useful for navigating COVID-19 and beyond. Being able to talk face-to-face with a mental health professional remains important as well, with 43% of students saying in-person counseling would also be useful to them.
The Impact of Mental Health on College Campuses
The impact of mental health and mental health services on college and university campuses is more undeniable than ever. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that 64% of students who dropped out of college dropped out because of mental illness. Research has also found that 66% of students say counseling services helped their academic performance. As prospective students now place a higher priority on mental health services before they even set foot on campus, an investment in mental health can impact future enrollment, current student academic performance and retention rates.
How Higher Education Can Prepare for the Needs of Students
A recent op-ed written by Rachel Velcoff Hults from the National Center for Youth Law and Dr. Steven Adelsheim from Stanford Psychiatry Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing, published by Stanford Children’s Health, called for the well-being of children and youth to be at the forefront of the response to COVID-19. This quote from the op-ed highlights the importance and long-term effects of how students are supported in response to the challenges faced during the pandemic:
“Both the experiences our young people face now and the supports they receive from us in coping with and navigating these challenges will have profound impacts on their abilities to be successful adults, parents, and citizens for years to come.”
The authors recommends that these steps be taken to care for students now and in the future:
- Promote stress management techniques.
- Increase awareness of online tools for support and community connection for mental health and well-being.
- Implement formal structures for mental health screening.
- Expand mental health services.
As students make decisions about the fall, they’re asking questions like, “How will the university care for not only my physical health, but my mental health?” Higher education must be ready with a response. With a majority of prospective students saying that mental health services are a very important factor in their searches for a school, higher education cannot afford to ignore the mental health of its students.
TimelyMD provides 24/7/365 on-demand and scheduled mental health support for students when and where they need it. Contact us to learn how on-demand and scheduled mental health support can make an impact on your campus today.