Addressing Mental Health with Student Staff

Mental Health

Imagine, if you will, 10 seemingly average college students standing in front of you. Better yet, you can imagine 10 of your undergraduate workers in campus recreation. Good kids, hard workers, maybe a little goofy or uninspired at times (hey, cleaning cardio equipment isn’t a trip to Disney World, folks).

Now, imagine that of your 10 lovable workers:

  • Four of them are concerned about dealing with a personal type of anxiety or anxiety disorder.
  • Four of them have concerns about dealing with personal depression. It could very well be the same four as above.
  • If all 10 of them are seeking counseling at a college center, two of them present severe mental health concerns. At least four of them present mild mental health concerns.

A 2013 Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors survey has found that 95 percent of all reporting counseling centers say significant psychological issues are a growing concern on campuses. Of those reporting, 70 percent also said they saw an increase in severe psychological problems from the last year.

Mental health had been pushing its way to the forefront of student issues for years. Now, with new surveys and studies cropping up more frequently regarding the subject, that issue has been established as a contributing factor to declining young adult well-being. Let’s face some reality, though. Students are NOT seeking help at the rate and frequency we would like to see.

Mental health still has a negative stigma, poor mental health is still seen as a sign of personal weakness for many people. Others simply have no idea how to face this issue, nor know where to begin to seek help. We can help our students, but we can’t just be there for them. We have to be MORE than there.  We have to meet our students outside of our office and actively engage in our community about mental health.

Have you considered contacting the counseling services and centers on your campus? Reaching out to these entities can create a much-needed partnership and a less daunting avenue for resources to extend to your community. Creating programs with these services also educates the campus population about what is available to them, and how to go about inquiring for help. It can be more effective if coupled with programs like:

  • Spa nights
  • Video game breaks
  • Pet Therapy nights

Have you ever asked any of your student workers how their day is going? How classes are going? Taking interest in your student’s well-being and showing your concern for their mental health can not only make their day, but also allow them the opportunity to discuss issues, and you the opportunity to point them in toward counseling services if they need professional attention. Remember that partnership you made with counseling services? Why not program a mental health section to you staff training? They can inform them on how to inquire about resources for counseling services, and teach your staff members mental health techniques to healthily de-stress from the day.

With mental health issues continuing to rise on campuses across our country, it is time we take an active lead in our community and help our students find mental health resources, and take interest in the well-being of our student staff. Showing our care for students will help them get the assistance they need.

Scott Flickinger is the Robert D. Kennedy ’54 Director of Intramural Sports at Cornell University. He has been in campus rec as a professional since 2003 and is also the current Brand Management Chair for the NIRSA Championship Series.

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