According to the National Alliance In Mental Illness, 75% of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 24. Additionally, 30% of college students reported feeling so low in the past year that it was affecting their levels of functioning both within and outside college.
Mental health is a topic that is always pushed under the rug and not discussed. But why is talking about mental health so important?
College is undoubtedly an exciting time of new transitions, building new relationships with peers, finding one’s own niche and developing a professional self. With these new changes comes a certain level of stress that needs to be handled. According to the National Alliance In Mental Illness, 75% of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 24. Additionally, 30% of college students reported feeling so low in the past year that it was affecting their levels of functioning both within and outside college. Some of the stressors that they regularly faced were relationship issues such as breakups, academic pressures (poor grades), financial concerns, feeling homesick or overwhelmed, inadequate sleep and alcohol abuse. Given the wide range of problems and the fact that these are extremely debilitating for students to deal with, talking about mental health and getting the appropriate help becomes essential.
Talking to Students about Mental Health
Step 1: Getting them to start talking, share their emotions, and build motivation for change
Firstly, while talking to a student, it is important to convey that this is a safe space for the student to open up and that they are not burdening you in any way. You can say “I have time to talk. I am willing to listen and be there for you”. Letting them know that you care, which is reflected through your voice and non-verbal cues helps them feel at ease.
Use open-ended questions: this allows students to talk freely and explain their experiences rather than replying with a yes or no. Some examples are “How does that feel?” or “What does that mean to you?”
Affirm, reinforce and use reflective listening: It is important that the student feels understood and validated. This can be done by acknowledging, affirming, restating and summarizing what the student is trying to say in your own words. For instance, if the student says “I am so tired, I can’t do this anymore, no-one understands me” you can reflect and summarize by saying “ you seem overwhelmed and not heard or listened to”. Further, being open minded and non judgmental lets the student know that they are accepted for who they are.
Identify strengths: The student sometimes tends to get so caught up in the negative and all the things that are going wrong that it is the listener’s duty to identify strengths and to point out the positives, everything that they are doing right.
Empathetic listening: It is imperative to listen with empathy and to give feedback in a gentle manner when the student requests to do so. Also, rather than advising, present the student with a list of options that they can choose from and empower them to come up with their own solutions to problems.
Encourage self care: The student might need tips on self care such as time management, or making the effort to exercise, or getting enough sleep. Taking good care of themselves first is a priority during a challenging time.
Step 2 : Strengthen the commitment to change
Research: It is important to research all the local, online and college mental health support and resources available to the students at this step so that you can provide them with the information they need when asked.
Discuss a plan: Discuss the steps that need to be taken for the change to be put into action. During this stage, also discuss the pros and cons of action.
Recap: Review everything that you have gone through thus far, identify gaps and answer any questions that the student might have. Assess how likely the student might go through with the plan.
Dealing with resistance, setbacks and ambivalence is part of the process. Going with the flow and rolling with resistance is key rather than pushing the student towards any plan of action.
Students often tend to turn to each other during times of crisis. Channeling the student voice into mental health awareness, through student activist groups, can be a useful way of getting the conversation started with regards to mental health.
Integrating mental health awareness into the academic experience through the coursework could also be a good way to equip students with the skills required to handle difficult times.
Written By - Poojitha Srungavarapu
Your mental health matters as much as your physical health. Don't hesitate to take a step towards your mental well-being. If you’re looking at talking to a professional, book your Initial Consultation with us on https://www.themoodspace.com/freeconsultation or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take a step towards bettering your mental wellbeing because you deserve it!