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Scheduling student mental health support

May 26, 2022 / News Editor
Schedule student mental health support

If universities are to take student mental health seriously, they must focus on the development and delivery of a curriculum that supports wellbeing and effective learning.

We looked at the importance of staff wellbeing and how it is supported by dynamic timetabling. We now look at the integral role of curriculum design, scheduling, and timetabling in supporting student mental health.

As well as being a period of huge personal growth and development, university life can create unique stressors, which, in turn, can lead to psychological, physical, and emotional distress. These can not only affect a student’s academic competence and achievements but can have later repercussions on professional performance and personal life.

There have been unique extra stressors for those studying during the COVID-19 pandemic. Distance learning has created isolation issues and challenged faculty and cohort communication. In addition, students feel growing levels of anxiety about the future as we exit the pandemic period but enter inflationary economic conditions and a period of geo-political disruption caused by actions in Ukraine.

 

How can universities support students?

Curriculum design and the scheduling of its delivery can have both positive and negative impacts on student learning and wellbeing. The curriculum is central to the student experience, being one of the first and one of the few consistent points of contact between students and the university. It is pivotal to the mental health and wellbeing of both students and faculty. Timetables are set up to manage the delivery of that curriculum and through technology like Semestry’s TermTime, can be developed with sensitivity towards the impact of workloads, due dates, stress, anxiety, and exam pressure on students.

If universities are to take student mental health seriously, they must focus on the development and delivery of a curriculum that supports wellbeing and effective learning.

Advanced HE (www.advance-he.ac.uk), working in partnership with the University of Derby, King’s College London, Aston University, and Student Minds, has developed an Education for Mental Health Toolkit to support these aims in curriculum development, which focuses on five main elements:

  • the importance of scaffolded curriculum design and delivery
  • the social nature of learning
  • the need for curriculum to have a learning focus
  • the need for curriculum to explicitly address holistic learner development
  • support for students who have encountered problems that undermine learning and wellbeing

 

How to support faculty mental health? 

It is challenging for academics and curriculum development teams to find a balance between validation and a curriculum design that supports student mental health. However, putting student wellbeing at the foundation of the validation process should ensure that it remains a focus throughout curriculum design and will be a central tenet of the student experience.

The Advance HE toolkit offers four suggested avenues:

  • using the curriculum development process to increase staff knowledge and understanding of the relationships between learning and wellbeing and the curriculum and wellbeing
  • using design models that consider the holistic experiences of the whole student population and ensure aspects such as scaffolding, sequencing, deep learning and social integration are properly considered and embedded from conception
  • providing resources to support curriculum design that considers wellbeing – this may include expertise from colleagues across the university in professional services or academic colleagues who have experience of this approach
  • final checks in validation paperwork and committees that explicitly address the need to consider how the curriculum has considered student wellbeing and learning

There is no question that building wellbeing into the curriculum should be a fundamental part of every educational institution’s approach. And, scheduling the delivery of that evolving curriculum also needs to safeguard those improvements for student wellbeing. This is a new challenge for institutions worldwide.

 

Other resources

Australia

Enhancing Student Wellbeing is a resource for university educators and includes advice on the ways that decisions in curriculum design might increase or mitigate student anxiety and distress. It also offers good practice strategies and discipline-based case studies of curriculum innovation designed to enhance student wellbeing.

http://unistudentwellbeing.edu.au/curriculum-design/

 

Netherlands

Caring Universities is a collaboration between eight major universities in the Netherlands. The project is part of a WHO international initiative aimed at improving knowledge of college students’ mental wellbeing in order to help in prevention, early detection, and treatment of mental disorders during college years. It offers free web-based interventions to students.

https://caring-universities.com/

 

The Studenthelpr.com website offers advice on obtaining mental health support for both Dutch and international students in the Netherlands.

https://studenthelpr.com/psychologist-for-students-netherlands

 

UK

The UK University Mental Health Charter supports UK universities in developing inclusive and flexible curricula. It offers a framework of evidence-informed principles to support universities in adoption of a whole-university approach to mental health and wellbeing alongside research and resources to learn about good practice in promoting mental health and wellbeing within each institution.

https://universitymentalhealthcharter.org.uk

 

US

Active Minds provides support to students across the USA, with 600+campus chapters at high schools and colleges nationwide.

https://www.activeminds.org/

 

EU

The EU website offers links to student mental health support across a selection of universities in the member countries.

https://education.ec.europa.eu/de/node/1771

 

In a 2021 article the Mayo Clinic stated that:

  • Up to 44% of college students reported having symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death for college students
  • Of those who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, 75% have their first episode by 24
  • 30% of students reported feeling depressed in the past year
  • Half of students reported feeling overwhelmingly anxious in the past year
  • Nearly two-thirds of students who developed substance abuse problems also were found to suffer from mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression

www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/college-students-and-depression

 

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