Addressing Common Mental Health Issues Among College Students: Mind MattersAn authentic leadership problem of practice (POP) within my organization that needs to be addressed is mental health. Mental health is a complex issue that is important to my work, influenced by factors outside my control, and relevant to educational leadership within the broader institutional framework. As an educator, it is extremely important to be able to identify the mental health problems students may be experiencing. Difficulty focusing in class, sleeping problems at night, emotional highs and lows, and lack of concentration are a few ways in which mental health problems affect a student’s wellbeing. Mental health should not be ignored as these problems disrupt an individual’s life and all aspects of learning. Therefore, educators need to promote the mental wellbeing of all students by addressing mental health concerns and providing (creating) interventions within a whole-school framework to support an environment conducive to learning. Mental disorders among college students seem to be increasing in number and severity. It is important to me as an educator to be able to identify signs of mental health problems among my students, and the impact on their learning and academic performance.
Interacting with my students on a daily basis, making myself available, having meaningful conversations, sometimes offering advice, and listening attentively are only a few steps I have taken to make an important difference in my students’ life. However, more steps need to be taken to address the mental health problems students are facing and the unnecessary challenges that pose as barriers for students to overcome in the classroom and beyond. Studies show that mental disorders affect students’ ability to learn and in turn, students have difficulty meeting academic standards, thus feeling even more helpless, worried, isolated, and unhappy. Awareness of these factors can enable me to promote and address student mental health concerns in schools in order to meet the needs of students and help them learn successfully. Question 2For many students, college ends up being the most stressful time of their lives. Students feel worried, sad, frustrated, and even stressed about certain aspects that can become overwhelming at some point. Although there are a number of risk factors that can have an impact on students’ mental health (and well being), a few possible causes of distress include (the interaction of) academic struggles, social isolation, and financial problems. Factors such as these make the college experience even more challenging and create unnecessary stress and anxiety for many students.
The most obvious source of stress among my students is trying to keep up a grade level acceptable to maintain a grade point average required for some of their programs. This amount of pressure on students can impact their graduate school acceptance, possible job offers, scholarships, and financial aid. Furthermore, the fear of failure can increase psychological distress and affect their academic performance resulting in a lower course grade, incomplete grade, or drop out.
For student loans i.e. OSAP and other financial support, students are required to meet a certain percentage of a full course load. Withdrawal from a course impacts the financial aid they receive. However, some students choose to reduce their course load because of the stresses associated with the money they have to repay. Financial struggles and pressures of student loan debt leave students to make some tough decisions. Therefore, students take it upon themselves to find employment during the school year to reduce the costs associated with college. Balancing between work and school can have a negative impact on students’ mental health and well being.
Students who feel stressed out and overwhelmed start to experience problems such as, insomnia, sadness, frustration, loss of direction and isolation which leads to depression and anxiety. The feeling of isolation and loneliness during the school year is common among international students. Isolation and loneliness are feelings experienced most by international students from India, Africa, China, Japan, and other countries. Students experience a sense of culture shock and become overwhelmed by the diversity at their institution. The thoughts of family and friends back home, difficulty socializing, the feeling of not belonging, possible language barriers, and living alone are a few reasons that can cause homesickness and lead to unnecessary stress, depression, and anxiety.
The situation for first-year students can be very stressful and create a negative impact on students’ mental health and wellbeing. As an educator, I can make a significant difference for student learning by connecting to a broader strategy of improvement. Question 3 how does this relate to education leadership Educational institutions recognize the importance of mental health but need to develop plans and policies to promote and implement strategies to improve students’ mental health.
Administrators, faculty, staff, and school leaders can work together with other institutions, such as community mental health centers to best address the needs of students with mental health concerns. Within the broader framework, multi-level systems have a significant role to play in understanding these issues within diverse contexts. By building better structures and support systems school leaders can promote positive mental health and ensure the success for all students.
Support from all systems can provide educators like me with the essential tools to address the challenges associated with mental health and focus on prevention and intervention strategies. With the support of leadership at the board and organizational level, I have an important role in establishing best practice within my classroom and beyond (to support student learning).