Student mental health has become a buzz phrase within higher education circles, but what can we actually do to tackle it?
A cause for concern?
It’s worth noting, then, that Universities and academic staff work hard to support the well being of their students. Student services are, in fact, stretched to breaking point by the sheer volume of young people now willing to ask for help. But this only means that we need to take further positive steps to ensure they’re accommodated. And there are still thousands of students yet to be reached. So, what can be done?
Technology doesn’t always fan the flame
It can’t be disputed that technology (when used with imprudence) has the ability to make the problem worse. Unrealistic body ideals promoted through social media, the anonymity of online hate and the inevitable anxiety resulting from the fact that we can now be reached by anyone at all at any time of day have the potential to negatively impact anyone. Not least 18-21 year olds going through perhaps the most volatile times of their lives. But is technology always bad? Like it or not, students now live their lives from their phones. And if we can tap into this channel of communication, we can use it for good.
Reaching students on their level
Perhaps the best advantage of using technology to help students is it’s already integrated role in their lives: they might not listen to their lecturers but they definitely listen to that stranger on Reddit. As backwards as this may seem to us, its how new generations see the world. So we need to meet them on their level if we want them to see us as part of it.
At Tyfy, our peer mentoring system runs entirely online. Aside from the obvious benefits of quality monitoring and protection against academic plagiarism, this gives students the chance to communicate in a way they understand. They’re unlikely to sign up for an awkward meeting with a student they think they have nothing in common with. But if they can be matched with someone who knows the answer they need to finish their assignment, not only will they be free of the academic stress plaguing them, they’re communicating in a way they’re used to. This makes them far more likely to participate.
Making access easier – and less daunting
The anonymity of social media might be considered dangerous, but we can’t ignore the fact that it has become part of the basic human condition to take comfort behind the safety of our phones. Harnessing this is the key to getting students to feel comfortable enough to access support.
At Tyfy, we redirect students to existing well being services within their University and external sources of support. We provide students with a list of safe places they can go, and act as the anchor between them and the support they need. We make it quicker, easier and safer – with no one left wondering where to turn.
Enabling self/ peer support
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of campus life is it’s ability to isolate students, even when they’re surrounded by peers. University can be an incredibly lonely experience for those who feel like they don’t fit in or can’t relate to others around them. This is where many spirals can start. Especially when someone in trouble feels like they have no one to talk to.
At Tyfy, we don’t pretend we can erase this problem altogether – but we help. By providing an online community where students can discuss shared problems, common interests and help each other with their studies, we aim to connect them altogether. Furthermore, by enabling them to help each other (and help themselves) we allow them to maintain their independence. We don’t patronise them, we just give them the tools they need to better their situation on their own terms. Students who know they are not alone are far less likely to struggle so much to begin with. And if they do, they know they can find help.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much help we offer to students if they’re simply unwilling to take it. Technology will help us make sure they engage. To find out more about how we could help you help your students, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org