Colleges must play larger role in improving student mental health, report finds

Colleges and universities should take more responsibility for students’ mental health — not just by providing more counselors, but by improving campus culture and climate overall, according to a report released today.

At least 60% of college students said they experienced mental health challenges in 2021, due in part to hostile politics, violence, wealth disparities and other factors, the report found. But a significant source of stress originates from the college itself. Financial worries, social isolation, a competitive culture, prejudice and discrimination on campus and under-staffed counseling centers all contribute to student depression and anxiety.  

“I wasn’t surprised by the findings, but I was surprised that there’s been very little discussion about institutional responsibility in addressing mental health issues,” said report co-author Samuel Museus, an ethnic studies professor at UC San Diego and director of the National Institute for Transformation and Equity. “We have a responsibility to cultivate a more supportive campus culture.”

The report, “Degrees of Distress: How higher education institutions hurt and help student mental health,” was published by the College Futures Foundation, a nonprofit focused on increasing college graduation rates among underrepresented students in California. The report is based on a review of several hundred studies and analyses of mental health among college students. Lindsay Pérez Huber, education professor at Cal State Long Beach, was Museus’ co-author.

Among other things, the report recommends:Promoting self-care, including good sleep, nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, spirituality, gratitude and mutual aid.Improving students’ connections to their home communities.Providing culturally relevant curricula, campus art and spaces that uplift marginalized student groups.Protecting and strengthening programs focused on the well-being of diverse students, such as ethnic studies.Diversifying counseling staffs and providing culturally relevant mental health programs.

“The general narrative of student mental health is that it’s the problem of individual students, as opposed to something that is shaped by institutions,” Museus said. “We think there’s a lot more that institutions can do to support student mental health.”

How Wisconsin educators are changing the way they teach to help kids’ mental health

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6 Ways to Help Your Adult Child Thrive in College

I started my career many years ago with an internship at the University of Pennsylvania Counseling Center. During that time and throughout my over 30 years as a child, teen, and family psychologist, I have seen many young adults do well and as well as see others struggle through college and those who dropped out.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the overall six-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began their pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in the fall of 2015 was 62.6%. This means that around 37.4% of students did not graduate within six years.

Here are some other grim statistics:College dropout rates indicate that up to 32.9% of undergraduates do not complete their degree program.First-time undergraduate freshmen have a 12-month dropout rate of 24.1%.Among first-time bachelor’s degree seekers, 25.7% ultimately drop out; among all undergraduate students, up to 40% drop out.39 million Americans were college dropouts in July 2020; 944,200 of them re-enrolled that fall.College dropouts make an average of 32.6% less income than bachelor’s degree holders.College dropouts are 19.6% more likely to be unemployed than any degree holder.

Below are some of the main reasons why young adults struggle to find success in college.Reasons Why Adult Children Struggle in College

Mental health issues: As I wrote in my book, The Anxiety, Depression, & Anger Toolbox for Teens, children who are dealing with personal issues such as mental health difficulties may struggle to balance their academic responsibilities with their personal lives.

Lack of preparation: Many students struggle at four-year colleges and realize they did not adequately prepare for the rigors of college-level coursework during their high school years.

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