1. Ensure communications are clear and timely
Over half of students (55%) surveyed said they would not know where to go if they needed professional mental health services, according to the Active Minds research. That makes an audit of current wellbeing communications - to ensure information is clear, accessible and timely - an important first step. As well as signposting to available mental health support, it’s important all relevant information, such as increased academic support or deadline leniency, is communicated clearly too, as some of it may have a knock-on mental health impact.
2. Identify high-risk students
Finding out who needs help and letting them know what support is available is crucial. However, the normal indicators for identifying high-risk students may not currently be applicable. New factors will have to be adopted, such as monitoring who hasn’t registered for online lectures or who has applied for deadline extensions for mitigating circumstances. Hopefully IT Services will have an appropriate learning management system in place to facilitate this, if not a system that enables this tracking should be established.
3. Provide support for bereaved students
It’s imperative that current bereavement policies are up-to-date and reflective of the extraordinary circumstances we’re experiencing. Likewise, it’s important that relevant students are signposted to appropriate internal and external bereavement support. It may also be beneficial to consider relaxing some of the administrative burden of bereaved students, such as requesting a death certificate as evidence of a mitigating circumstance.
4. Deliver digital mental health support
Online or phone counselling is one way to help more students access mental health support regardless of their location. However, it's important to confirm students have a private space to participate, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances such as those experiencing domestic abuse. Other barriers, such as access to reliable technology and internet connection, will need addressing, too. Likewise, some students may have additional needs which are challenging to support through digital means and may require a more bespoke approach.
5. Help students connect
According to the Active Minds research, students find tools that foster social connection the most useful for looking after their wellbeing. Help facilitate social connection the digital way by replacing cancelled events with online ones and making sure students know about them.
6. Address specific concerns
It’s important to make sure you’re prioritizing the right wellbeing projects as support required by your students may differ from your expectations. Given limited budgets, it is important money is spent on needed and effective initiatives. One way to find out what your students need is via regular online meetings with them, or by consulting with student communities.