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Report: For Mental-Health Concerns, College Students Turn to Faculty


Wednesday, April 14, 2021   

HARTFORD, Conn. - Emotional distress among college students is on the rise, and a new report says faculty members want more mental-health training to help those who may be in crisis.

In the survey of a dozen college campuses, 87% of faculty think student mental health has worsened since the pandemic began. However, only half said they'd have a good idea of how to recognize and help a student in mental or emotional distress.

Psychologist Dr. Carrissa Phipps of Middletown said that intuition is vital to get students proper care.

"Sometimes, a faculty member is that first person a student might disclose that they're struggling to, or the faculty member might be seeing that change in behavior, motivation," she said. "So, they can be a great source to help refer students to support."

In the survey, 73% of instructors said they'd like to have some training in student mental health. To make that happen in Connecticut, Phipps said, college administrators will need to make it a priority in their school budgets.

Phipps served on the Connecticut General Assembly's Mental Health in Higher Education Task Force, which delivered its own recommendations in February 2020. She said she thinks mental health is a priority in Connecticut higher education, but said COVID-19 has complicated the work.

"But I think that they're navigating it in a whole new world," she said, "and I think that the only thing that might change is that there would be more mention and support for implementing telehealth services."

Other task force recommendations include schools making a thorough assessment of their mental-health resources, increased promotion of those services to students, forming a mental-health coalition, and implementing crisis-management policies.

About one in five faculty members said helping students in emotional distress weighs on their own mental health as well. Phipps, who also is an adjunct professor at the University of Hartford, said mindfulness is vital.

"Balancing that generosity with students, and really being able to meet them where they are, and recognize that this is a really difficult time for all of us, while also setting boundaries and expectations," she said. "I think that that has just been really important for us to do as faculty for students."

She noted that since the pandemic hit soon after the task force released its recommendations, she's unsure whether schools have had a chance to implement them.

MCF report
Task force

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