How to be a mental health ally: Faculty, staff edition
With research continuing to show that more and more college students are struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns, university faculty and staff are in a unique position to make sure students know how and when to access help should they need it. According to data gathered by the Indiana University Office of the Chief Health Officer in a student survey this year, more than a third of respondents have used mental health services offered by the university.
“We know our students need these services, and it’s likely that all who could benefit from extra support are not using it,” said Aaron Carroll, IU’s chief health officer. “We can all do better to encourage them to realize that help is available, and to reach out for it.
“As faculty and staff, interacting with students and getting to know them often on a daily basis, we’re able to see what could be subtle changes indicating they may need assistance. It’s helpful to use our own personal experience to empathize with what a student may be going through.”
Carroll offers a few ways that faculty and staff can be mental health allies:
Be a trusted source and know how to connect students with resources
“The Student Mental Health website is a great resource for searching for available services by campus and audience. In addition, TimelyCare, the free, 24/7 virtual mental health services for students, is now open. Students can access TimelyCare through the tab on their Canvas homepage, through the IU TimelyCare website or the TimelyCare app.
“TimelyCare also offers Faculty Support, which is designed to equip faculty and staff with information to help students who may be struggling. The faculty support service is open 24/7 and can be accessed by calling 833-4-TIMELY, extension 2.
Talk about mental health and be open about your own struggles
“We can all help to normalize asking for help and, if you’re willing, talk about any struggles you yourself have had with mental health. I’ve shared many times that I have long dealt with anxiety and see a therapist regularly. Help students see that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. We wouldn’t look down on someone with type 1 diabetes needing insulin; care for your mental health is no different.
“If you’re looking for additional help in starting a conversation with a student who may be struggling, our office has a printed resource card with tips. To get one of these cards, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Be proactive in helping students establish good habits
“Something as simple as adjusting assignment deadlines from midnight to 5 p.m. can help reinforce the expectation that those late-night hours should be used for rest and not rushing to complete assignments. Including information about mental health resources in your syllabus is another easy way to show that it’s OK to ask for help and normalize talking about our mental health.”
Take care of your own mental health
“As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you’re not taking care of yourself, it’s extremely difficult to care for others. IU offers a number of resources for faculty and staff to ensure they can also be mentally healthy.
“The Workplace Mental Health website is a great first step in learning what’s available, including 24/7 access to licensed counselors through the SupportLinc Employee Assistance Program. And, if you’re not sure what might be the best type of help, start with the SupportLinc Mental Health Navigator, a short online survey which will provide you with a personalized report that offers custom recommendations.”
Amanda Roach is executive director of media relations and editorial content in the Office of the Vice President for Communications and Marketing.