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Gen Z Takeover: As Demand for Mental Health Services Grows, Colleges Give Students New Tools

mental health support 473Four in 10 incoming college freshmen in the fall of 2016 reported feeling “overwhelmed” by their responsibilities, compared to 28% in 2000, according to research from the Higher Education Research Institute.

And members of Generation Z — or those born since 1997 — are the least likely to report “excellent or very good” mental health, according to an October 2018 report from the American Psychological Association (APA). At the same time, they are more likely to seek help from a mental health professional, with 37% reporting they’ve done so, compared to 35% of Millennials and 26% of Gen Xers.

It will be critical for colleges to address Gen Z’s mental health needs head-on and from the start of their time on campus. One-fourth of Gen Zers say they don’t do enough to manage their stress, and nearly three-quarters (73%) indicate they could have benefited from more emotional support in the last 12 months, according to the APA.

College mental health centers, however, are in the midst of a crisis. Several student newspapers have chronicled the severe staffing shortages and long wait times plaguing the counseling centers at their institutions. And although demand for counseling services has grown, reduced state support and tuition revenue from enrollment declines have sapped many colleges’ mental health budgets.

Increased demand has prompted some colleges to look for ways to take some of the pressure off counseling centers through well-being initiatives. Those can include meditation, yoga classes or designated areas where students can go to turn off their electronics, take naps and engage in other activities to de-stress.

Changing Approaches to Mental Health on Campus

U of South Florida and George Mason University are just two of several colleges making significant changes to the way they approach mental health on campus.

Campus leaders at the University of South Florida ran up against that problem when they tried to respond to rising demand for its mental health services.

To ensure more collaboration, the university took three divisions — Enrollment Planning and Management, Student Affairs and Undergraduate Studies — and rolled them into one cohesive unit called Student Success.

The university also rolled out a three-tier system, called MWell4Success, to better address students’ mental health needs.

The first tier requires all incoming students to take a mental health literacy training, which teaches them how to spot the signs of distress both within themselves and their peers, as well as how to approach someone and talk to that person about the resources available on campus.

The university also launched a success and wellness coaching service, which is free for all students and includes a remote Skype option. This system, DeBate explained, is meant for students who don’t need counseling or therapy services, freeing up space for more high-risk students, such as those with eating disorders or who may be suicidal.

In 2013, George Mason University set its sights on a novel goal in higher education: becoming a model for how colleges can support well-being on campus.

The concept was simple. Rather than just provide students with an education, the public university in Virginia would bake well-being into every aspect of college life to help all members of its community thrive and find personal fulfillment.

So far, George Mason has made strides toward its goal by increasing the number of well-being programs on campus and regularly assessing the engagement levels of faculty and staff, among other initiatives. And the university is hardly alone; colleges across the country are doubling down on their efforts to help students de-stress and get centered.

Excerpted from “Gen Z Takeover: As demand for mental health services grows, colleges give students new tools” in Education DIVE online. Read the full article to learn more about the well-being initiatives that are being put in place on college campuses to serve a wider range of students.

Source: Education DIVE | Gen Z Takeover: As demand for mental health services grows, colleges give students new tools, https://www.educationdive.com/news/gen-z-takeover-as-demand-for-mental-health-services-grows-colleges-give-s/552475 | © 2019 Industry Dive

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