Supporting Student Mental Health and Well-being

Guidance for Faculty & Staff

Faculty and staff play an instrumental role in supporting students’ mental health, especially as they continue to manage living and learning during a pandemic and return to on-campus life. Below are resources to help staff and faculty members identify ways to support students and ways to engage in self-care along the way. It takes all of us to create a Culture of Care.

You are not alone! The UNCG Counseling Center and the Dean of Students are resources to help students and to help you help students. (Counseling Center: 336.334.5874; Dean of Students: 336.334.5514)

Crisis? Call UNCG PD if you have an urgent concern for your safety or the safety of a student. 336-334-4444 or 911.

Several departments across the University offer training that will help you support our students. These trainings include topics related to mental health, well-being, diversity, and inclusivity:

WellTrack: Start Feeling Better Today

What are students experiencing?

UNCG students are persistent, resilient, and determined. As staff and faculty, we can support and enhance that resilience with a good understanding of what students are facing and how these challenges can impact learning. Difficulties with attention and motivation are common with stress, anxiety, depression, grief, trauma, and financial stress.  Difficulties with sleep are also common. Some students are trying to lean while dealing with food or housing insecurity. Trauma can affect thinking and learning through hypervigilance and a reduced capacity to regulate emotion and to objectively sort through information. This is a set of complex emotional demands that our community must keep in mind as students pursue their education. 

Anxiety & Uncertainty

UNCG students, like the rest of the world, are coping with uncertainty. This anxiety and uncertainty can create problems with concentration, panic, sleep, and motivation. Resources below may help you as you encounter students feeling anxious and uncertain. You can also refer students to resources at:

Depression

According to the Health Minds study, 21% of college students nationally had elevated levels of depression, and at UNCG 41% of surveyed students reported elevated levels of depression. The isolation, stress and financial concerns arising from the pandemic have only exacerbated these concerns. Students suffering from depression are more likely to stop attending class, to submit late work, and to underperform.

Financial Challenges

UNCG students have struggled financially as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic. Students and families may be experiencing food and/or housing insecurity. Lacking resources can create profound anxiety and means that students are juggling academics, jobs or looking for jobs, and finding ways to meet basic needs. Some resources that students can access are:

Racial Inequity

While the epidemic of racism, racial trauma and racial violence has persisted for more than 400 years, 2020 brought a spate of racist killings (many caught on camera) that intensified racial trauma for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Many of our students are impacted by racial trauma and racial inequity which can profoundly affect mental health, wellbeing, and academic performance. Symptoms associated with racial trauma include anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, recurrent images of witnessed violence, lack of hope for the future as well as stress-related physical symptoms. As a community, we strive to deepen our understanding of ways that we positively or negatively impact our students, and to take action to ensure that our community is a safe and anti-racist space.

Virtual Learning

Though many students have returned to campus and will engage in on site classroom learning, many students will have a virtual learning and/or virtual extracurricular component this year. Many students struggled to adjust to online learning in the early stages of the pandemic and some of these difficulties may persist.

What are students experiencing?

UNCG students are persistent, resilient, and determined. As staff and faculty, we can support and enhance that resilience with a good understanding of what students are facing and how these challenges can impact learning. Difficulties with attention and motivation are common with stress, anxiety, depression, grief, trauma, and financial stress.  Difficulties with sleep are also common. Some students are trying to lean while dealing with food or housing insecurity. Trauma can affect thinking and learning through hypervigilance and a reduced capacity to regulate emotion and to objectively sort through information. This is a set of complex emotional demands that our community must keep in mind as students pursue their education. 

Recognizing & Supporting Students in Distress

Signs

Some common signs of students in distress are:

UNCG Cares: Recognize and Assist Students in Distress

How Can I Help?

Empathize, Normalize, Validate
Students will approach faculty and staff that they admire, relate to, and consider mentors. Your response to them can be enormously beneficial.

The Active Minds mental health advocacy organization has an active listening model they offer for faculty and students called V-A-R for VALIDATE, APPRECIATE, REFER. This links to information on this model.

What if I Don’t Know What to Do?

Consult! You are not alone! The UNCG Counseling Center and the Dean of Students are resources to help students and to help you help students. (Counseling Center: 336.334.5874; Dean of Students: 336.334.5514)

Crisis? Call UNCG PD if you have an urgent concern for your safety or the safety of a student. 336-334-4444 or 911.

Several departments across the University offer training that will help you support our students. These trainings include topics related to mental health, well-being, diversity, and inclusivity:

How Do I Let the University Know About My Concerns?

If you feel a student is exhibiting concerning behavior, i.e. behavior that potentially interferes with their own or other students’ ability to function well in the learning environment, you can report this to the Dean of Students Office and the UNCG PD by completing a Concerning Behavior Report. This does not function as an emergency response. If you have an urgent concern for your own safety or the safety of someone else, contact the UNCG PD: 336-334-4444 or 911.

How to Promote Mental Health & Create a Culture of Care?

A recent survey from Active Minds, a mental health advocacy organization for young people, asked about the impact of the pandemic on college students.  Eighty percent of college students indicated that their mental health was negatively impacted by the pandemic.  A summary of results is here.

Students were asked what they thought were the most important things for educational leaders to be thinking about during (and after) the pandemic in order to support them. Included in the top responses were:

Increased academic support: Leniency, accommodations, and flexibility

Focus on soft skills: Empathy, compassion, communication, understanding, and validation for the burdens students are experiencing

More mental health resources: Increased investment in counseling and coping resources.

UNCG administration, faculty and staff have already been responding to these areas are below.

Mental Health Syllabus Statement

Consider highlighting the mental health and wellbeing statement in your syllabus to normalize mental health concerns, to identify existing resources and to encourage students to seek help.:

Health and well-being impact learning and academic success. Throughout your time in the university, you may experience a range of concerns that can cause barriers to your academic success. These might include illnesses, strained relationships, anxiety, high levels of stress, alcohol or drug problems, feeling down, or loss of motivation. Student Health Services and The Counseling Center can help with these or other issues you may experience. You can learn about the free, confidential mental health services available on campus by calling 336-334-5874, visiting the website at shs.uncg.edu or visiting the Anna M. Gove Student Health Center at 107 Gray Drive.

For undergraduate or graduate students in recovery from alcohol and other drug addiction, The Spartan Recovery Program (SRP) offers recovery support services. You can learn more about recovery and recovery support services by visiting shs.uncg.edu/srp or reaching out to recovery@uncg.edu.

Integrating Well-being Practices into the Classroom

Know University Resources

Becoming knowledgeable about the resources available to students will allow you to better assist them.  Below is a list of some key student resources:

Learn More About Gender/Race/Diversity

In this period of increased awareness of racist violence and racial trauma, students of color are undoubtedly experiencing more stress, anxiety, depression and grief. Students of color are often systematically positioned to have higher incidence of chronic illness and inadequate health, and greater financial stress, all of which has become heightened during the pandemic. These factors can impact a student’s learning and their need for flexibility or leniency.  Most people have uneven knowledge about various racial, ethnic, gender or national identities. Take advantage of the many resources available to gain more understanding of concerns or identities that you may be less familiar with.

Taking Care of Yourself

It is essential that you stay attuned to your own well-being and needs as you support our students.  You are in the same storm of uncertainty, fear, disruption, and grief that they are.  These resources may help you pay attention to and improve your own well-being as you navigate teaching, mentoring, and supporting our students.

Breathe Deeply

Take five slow, deep breaths right now and feel yourself calm down. Additional breathing exercises can be found here.

Practice Staying in the Present Moment

Worrying will not change or help the situation; try meditation or guided imagery. Other stress management and relaxation techniques can be found here.

Check out these Mindfulness Practices to help you through difficult times.

Stay Active

Physical activity can help relieve stress. Engage in joyful movement!  Try 3 minute chair yoga or start, interrupt, or end your days with a sun salutation.

Control What You Can

Have one or two things a day that are routine and that are in your control. This may be a walk you take, cooking a meal, spending a specific time with your partner, your kids or your pets, taking a bath, etc. These activities can be anchoring in times of uncertainty.

Talk to Someone

Tell a family member or friend how you are feeling. Contact the UNCG Employee Assistance Program ComPsych if fears, anxiety, sadness or grief begin to interfere with your functioning.

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