3 Ways to Take Student Wellbeing to the Next Level
Everyday we hear phrases such as “mental health,” “wellbeing,” and “self care” in both our personal and professional lives. As two mothers (and a former teacher), we also know that mental health and social emotional wellbeing are critical to student learning and holistic growth.
We’ve seen higher education leaders start to prioritize student wellbeing, and in the early findings of what will be our third edition of the Connected Student Report (coming later this year), leaders stated that “holistic support for student wellbeing remains critical with strong student/institution relationships built on compassion, empathy, trust, and good listening.”
But is there more to consider around campus mental health and wellbeing that can benefit students, institutions, and society at large? In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, here are three ways to take student wellbeing strategies to the next level, and create a learning environment that enhances mental health and wellbeing.
1. Foster a “Culture of Belonging and Care”
When institutions are in a position to be proactive rather than reactive, they can prevent students from having to seek help in the first place. Institutions can build that proactive structure, or a “culture of belonging and care,” where an entire campus community is called upon to support and foster student wellbeing and success. In other words, it is everyone’s job to care for students.
Some great guidance and examples include the Universities UK refreshed strategic framework for a whole university approach to mental health and wellbeing at universities, entitled Stepchange: mentally healthy universities. The University of Southern California (USC) created the USC Wellbeing Collective, which is a university-wide effort to strengthen a campus culture driven by student wellbeing.
Last month, at our 10th annual Education Summit in a conversation about advancing diversity and inclusion in higher education, we heard from USC President Dr. Carol L. Folt who said, “Belonging is the new battleground. How can we bring students in and make them feel like they are part of the institution? It starts with diverse committees that bring in student, faculty, and staff voices.”
2. Seek Out Opportunities for Cross-Sector Collaboration
While the higher education industry has a distinct vision and requirements, taking from the experience of other industries is also invaluable. Diverse perspectives and insight could unlock new ways to think about student wellbeing strategies. For example, Salesforce has found some creative ways to bring mental health conversations into the workplace via virtual mental health town halls for employees, guest speakers, and “wellbeing days” one Friday a month. This has empowered us to prioritize our own wellbeing, and so much of this could be applied to higher education. Read more on Employee Health and Wellbeing at Salesforce.
In the fifth edition of Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report, 88% of customers believe that trust becomes more important in times of change. Institutions must work to build trust with their students such that students feel a sense of belonging and experience being seen, heard, valued, and uplifted to support their wellbeing.
3. Invest in Technology That Truly “Powers Your Purpose”
Technology is a powerful enabler to promote student wellbeing — but the question is, how? From virtual advising and support and online communities to student surveys, employee assessments, and tools for tracking data — these solutions enable equity and help institutions make the most of resources.
For example, regular wellness checks could flag a student suffering from food insecurity, substance abuse, or other serious matters that need immediate attention. According to Kevin Kruger, President of NASPA, “Using data and analytics to serve the individual student is the future of higher education. We need to put resources into the students who need us most.”
Furthermore, Ian Dunn, Provost at Coventry University, agrees that gaining a clearer understanding of a student’s digital footprint is essential, “We are working hard on learning and wellbeing analytics. So we can pick up when students are not engaged in their studies and reach out proactively to offer help.”
Technology can act as a leveler to provide every student an equitable chance to get help, stay well, and ultimately excel as whole beings so that it’s not just the students who are confident and persistent that succeed — ALL students do!
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