While wellness and mental health initiatives are often thought of as separate from academics on college campuses, the two are strongly connected, because academic outcomes often depend on student well-being.
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Megan Kennedy, director of the University of Washington’s Resilience Lab, operating under the undergraduate academic affairs division, says that placement is distinctive within higher ed, yet logical. The lab partners with other units across campus and “is focused on promotion and prevention, which will reach more students than crisis intervention.”
For students, having a supportive professor or other mentor can make a big difference in successful outcomes, says Sarah Ketchen Lipson, a principal investigator for the nationwide Healthy Minds Network and an assistant professor of health law policy and management at Boston University. “There’s a lot of power that faculty have over students’ self-esteem and sense of belonging—having someone who believes in you, cares about you as a person, cares about your success.”
In her courses, Lipson tries to normalize failure and setbacks as part of college life. For example, she may let students drop a single grade so that “if you mess up on this one test or one assignment, that moment is not going to jeopardize your success in this class.”
The latest Student Voice survey of 2,000 undergraduate students, conducted by Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse with support from Kaplan, asked about their well-being at the current time (mid-March). Scroll down for highlights from the survey and seven actions faculty members can take to contribute to student mental health and wellness.