Concerns about mental health on campus have grown and gained attention in recent years. Research and reports have shown an increasing demand for supports and services on campus, but many colleges and universities cannot keep up with the needs of their students. For students, this can mean not knowing how to get help, asking for help and getting long wait times, or not getting the needed support to navigate higher education and their personal wellbeing.
While awareness campaigns are an important part of the solution, we must move away from traditional thinking to find new ways to fill gaps in services on campus to support students looking for help. It's time to focus on creative student-led solutions and advocacy.
With an understanding of the power of peer support and community, MHA's CMHIC is dedicated to highlighting innovation on-campus that utilizes new approaches to resources and supports available to students.
The members are elected every year to have monthly meetings to discuss major challenges and solutions, share their knowledge and experience with MHA's broader network, and develop an annual report highlighting trends and guides to their programs and work.
2020 Disability and Campus Mental Health Report
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on college students’ well-being, including students with mental health diagnoses. To understand the experiences of students with mental health diagnoses during the pandemic, MHA surveyed 471 college students who identified as having mental health disabilities about their academic experiences and needs during this time.
Major findings include:
- 70% of students with mental health conditions did not register for disability accommodations, yet only 20% reported it was because they did not want accommodations.
- The majority of students receiving disability accommodations for mental health disabilities reported their needs changed during the pandemic, but most did not feel supported by staff during the transition.
- Education and financial, cultural, and logistical barriers make accessibility services inaccessible for many students.
The 2018-2019 CMHIC Report: Making Space for Mental Health on Campus
The 2018-2019 report, Making Space for Mental Health On Campus, emphasizes how schools and students can make mental health resources more accessible by building them into the everyday lives of students and the places where they want to be.
- Expanding campus-based mental health resources should not rely on students finding traditional resources and services. With the leadership of students, mental health information and resources need to be tailored to and embedded in different communities on campus to best meet their needs.
- Students continue to demand and create formal peer support programs, even with push back from universities.
- To make support accessible, resources need to be available 24/7 in-person, via phone, and across campus, including in living spaces.
- Disability cultural centers create spaces where students with disabilities can connect with one another and celebrate disability culture and identity, as opposed to emphasizing disability as an impairment.
The 2017-2018 CMHIC Report: Beyond Awareness: Student-led Innovation in Campus Mental Health.
The report focuses on the power of student leadership in disability supports, peer support, and technology in campus mental health and includes summaries and guides of each member's programs for expansion to additional campuses.
- For more comprehensive disability supports, student leaders can create education-based programs and skill-building supports for their peers, and students or faculty can lead courses for academic credit to allow students to prioritize their well-being. Students can also serve as navigators for the often confusing and challenging process of obtaining accommodations.
- Peer support is a critical part of engaging more students, providing support outside of hours spent in treatment, creating community, shifting demand from counseling services, and offering low to no-cost options for students looking for help.
- Technology can help students connect to existing professionals, support one another, and share information on well-being.