Campus-Wide Initiatives

Campus-Wide Initiatives

Maureen E. Squires (State University of New York at Plattsburgh, USA), Melissa Martin (State University of New York at Plattsburgh, USA), Jean Mockry (State University of New York at Plattsburgh, USA), Alison Puliatte (State University of New York at Plattsburgh, USA) and Denise A. Simard (State University of New York at Plattsburgh, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3793-9.ch005
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In this chapter, the authors situate mental health issues in the context of U.S. institutes of higher education. They provide a brief history of the provision of mental health services on campus and contends that postsecondary schools should shift to a campus-wide, preventive, proactive approach to promote student flourishing. Four specific areas for interventions are discussed. These include academic or curricular adjustments, increased awareness and knowledge, supportive environments, and appropriate policies and procedures. These initiatives (which are not only the responsibility of “experts”) rely on the open communication and collaboration of all members of the campus community.
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With the increasing prevalence of mental illness in institutes of higher education (IHE), research suggests that colleges and universities must adapt to better serve their students. Reactive approaches and individualized counseling alone are not sufficient. Moreover, compartmentalized service (where responsibility for college student mental health resides in counseling centers) has limited influence. It is recommended that IHE shift from a targeted focus to a campus-wide focus and direct their efforts toward preventive measures (Fink, 2014; Hartley, 2012; Swaner, 2007; Wood, 2012). In the past few decades several organizations have proposed ways to facilitate this transition.

The Jed Foundation (JED), though not the only organization aimed at promoting emotional and mental well-being, is a leader in this field. It offers support to schools, students, families, and communities to strengthen mental health. JED’s 7-point Strategic Plan is comprehensive, attending to the following areas: developing life skills, promoting social connectedness, identifying students at risk, increasing help-seeking behavior, providing substance abuse and mental health services, following crisis management procedures, and restricting access to potentially lethal means (JED, 2016). Such an approach affects multiple levels of the campus community from college policy, to particular organizations like student mental health services, to faculty training and involvement, to curriculum design, to student enculturation.

Building on the recommendations of JED and other relevant literature, IHE can take multiple steps to improve the mental health of college students. Academic adjustments to face-to-face and online courses have been found to mediate the negative effects of stress in academic settings. Such curricular changes include engaged learning models and course offerings in mental well-being (DiPlacito-DeRango, 2016; Fink, 2014; Mitchell, Darrow, Haggerty, & Neill, 2012; Savini, 2016; Swaner, 2007). IHE that endorse social and academic inclusion via residential communities, campus activities, and learning communities are found to be more supportive and promote a sense of student belonging, which are favorable factors of mental health (Condra, Dineen, Gauthier, Gills, Jack-Davies, & Condra, 2015; Fink, 2014). Moreover, IHE at all levels (leadership, faculty, support staff, and students) must be fully aware and fully trained to promote resilience and identify signs of mental illness (Barr, 2014; Condra et al., 2015; Hartley, 2012, Wood, 2010) to create environments in which students can flourish. Additionally, campuses should have the necessary policies and procedures in place to promote well-being and intervene when students are in mental distress (Condra et al., 2015; DiPlacito-DeRango, 2016; Murphy & Baines, 2015; Silverman, 2008; Wood, 2012).

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