If you’re a parent who’s been on a college tour in the past few years, there’s a good chance you know that student mental health is a hot topic, and many schools are scrambling to hire more counselors and provide additional resources as students are seeking help in greater numbers.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 75% of all mental health conditions begin by age 24, and one in five young adults will experience a mental health condition during college.
The latest findings in the 2018 Annual Report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State show that anxiety, depression, and stress continue to be the top three self-reported concerns for students experiencing mental health challenges.
In addition, trending up for the past three years are college students seeking help with prior counseling experience, so more and more incoming freshmen are starting school expecting continued mental health services.
Just as universities continue to compete for students and tuition dollars with eye-candy amenities like rec center climbing walls and lazy rivers, most have realized that they also must to do a better job with the mental health side of student wellness.
It’s commonplace for schools to offer mental health perks like peer-to-peer counselors, dog visits during midterms and finals, meditation classes,and LGBTQ+ support groups.
But some schools have gotten even more innovative. Here is just a sampling of some of the remarkable offerings at colleges and universities, large and small, all around the U.S.
The Student Wellness Center at the Ohio State University promotes the idea that there are nine dimensions of student wellness and offers a Student Civility Program. The SCP is “an educational workshop series that engages students on topics related to personal responsibility, community safety and civil engagement.
The SCP workshop series promotes positive behavior change by improving participants’ interpersonal communication and critical thinking skills relating to healthy relationships, sex, gender, empathy and decision-making. Participants will experience opportunities for individual reflection and increased self-awareness.”
The University of Florida’s Counseling and Wellness Center includes the Mind and Body Center, a “place to learn about reducing stress and improving well-being through a variety of online, technological, and in-person resources. Meditation, biofeedback, neurofeedback, virtual reality, and movement activities are just some of the tools they offer to support a healthy emotional and physical state.”
Rutgers University in New Jersey not only offers on-campus housing dedicated to students in recovery from alcohol and/or drug dependence, but The College Support Program as well. It’s a comprehensive program that assists students on the autism spectrum “through the provision of direct service and collaboration with University services that address executive functioning, social competence, academic skills, self-care, self-advocacy, and career preparation.”
New York University offers students individual mindfulness consultations, in the form of a 2- to 3-session intervention, as either an adjunct to individual/group psychotherapy or as a stand-alone service. Students meet individually with members of the Counseling and Wellness Center’s Mindfulness Team and have the opportunity to learn about the benefits of mindfulness for symptom reduction and overall psychological well-being, to learn basic mindfulness skills, and to develop a customized mindfulness plan.
Oklahoma State University, which touts itself as “America’s Healthiest Campus” is home to two walking labyrinths, one on the main campus and one at the OSU Botanic Garden. The garden’s labyrinth was based on a classical Seven-Circuit labyrinth and is 40 ft in diameter. The natural elements that surround the labyrinth provide a naturally healing and peaceful environment for students who want a walking meditation experience.
San Jose State University in California offers biofeedback, a massage chair and Light Therapy as some of its Wellness Lounge options. The light therapy sessions, offered every weekday, are helpful (especially during the winter months) for students fighting symptoms of fatigue, seasonal affective disorder, depression and sleep issues.
Kennesaw State University in Georgia has Art4Healing workshops as part of the array of programs offered by their Counseling and Psychological Services. A certified facilitator leads students through a series of prompts as they respond by painting abstractly with acrylic colors on canvas. The method helps participants express unspoken feelings in a safe way by associating a color with an emotion. No art experience required!
The University of Texas at Austin provides students with easy access to a “Self-Care Map” showing some of the best spots on campus for taking a brain break from their busy day, as voted for by UT students. Who wouldn’t want to chill out at the Turtle Pond or the SkyScape, a naked eye observatory where students can view the sky through an opening in the ceiling called an oculus – particularly beautiful during sunrise and sunset, when colored lights illuminate the walls?
Wake Forest University in North Carolina offers a Wellbeing Wednesday program with different activities every week. Students can participate in wellness opportunities like knitting or crocheting blanket squares for preemies, yoga, journaling, poetry, healing touch, blending healthy smoothies, and wellness laughter.
The University of South Carolina in Columbia has jumped onboard the podcast popularity wave and offers “Hear Me Out,” a podcast hosted by two current USC students that is dedicated to sharing stories of fellow students facing and conquering personal challenges. Their narratives of resiliency can provide hope to listeners both on and off the campus.
For any high school student facing the impending decision of which college to attend, mental health resources should be a consideration, because every aspect of campus wellness is important.
College life discussions should include the fact that mental health issues tend to get worse over time if not addressed and are highly correlated to risky behaviors like alcohol and drug use, which have their own potentially dangerous consequences.