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Education Now

Mental Health and Wellness at College Today

A discussion on higher education and the mental health and wellness challenges that colleges are facing — and what student support should look like now, as pandemic impacts continue.

Colleges and universities are facing a crisis in mental health today — with nearly 40% of college students experiencing depression, according to a 2020 study, 34% reporting anxiety, and 13% saying they had thought seriously about suicide in the last year. The pandemic exacerbated the crisis, but there are other factors driving the surge.

We talk with two experienced mental health leaders from large university campuses. We ask what they're seeing this year, what colleges are doing to manage the surge in demand for services, and what innovations they've embraced to meet students where they are. We explore what campuses can do to create environments that prioritize and sustain health and wellness — and how can they assemble the resources, staff, and administrative structure needed to make it happen.


Francesca Purcell, Senior Lecturer on Education and Faculty Director, Higher Education Program, Harvard Graduate School of Education


  • Ernesto Escoto, Director and Clinical Associate Professor, Counseling and Wellness Center, University of Florida (UF)
  • Nicole Green, Executive Director, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)

Key takeaways:

  1. Faculty should consider a proactive PLAN: 
            Proactively promote mental health resources
            Lead with compassion and care
            Ask about well-being
            Note student feedback
  2. Develop policies and programs that contribute to a holistic campus culture that supports mental health and resilience. 
  3. Think of resilience as being made up of three component parts. Managing these three elements of resilience can help students (and staff and faculty) enhance mental health and psychological wellbeing
    • Managing basic needs: regular sleep, routines, exercise, and diet
    • Creating love, belonging, and community
    • Finding purpose, meaning, and mastery: getting involved, participating, serving the community, doing good work
  4. Responding to and healing from racial trauma is key to student resilience and success. Develop trauma-informed programs that attend to the needs of students with multiple, intersecting minoritized identities. 
  5. Develop tool kits for deans, chairs, directors on how to model and support work-life balance, etc. A flourishing faculty and staff can best support student development.


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