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The ‘Hidden Curriculum’ of Mental Health in Higher Education

Professional development course offers expert insight into caring for students’ mental health needs
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As mental health remains a crucial and evolving aspect of teaching students across all levels of education, Professional Education at HGSE has developed programming to help educators evaluate the institutional supports and programs behind caring for student mental health.

One of those programs, Mental Health in Higher Education: A Theory-to-Practice Approach for Student Well-Being, aims to confront the complex challenge managing student mental health presents in higher education. Led by Lecturer Alexis Redding, the four-week virtual institute features a theory-grounded approach to mental health topics in an effort to provide educators clarity around the wide variety of mental health challenges seen in student populations.

“One of the principles of our program is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to the college mental health crisis,” says Redding, faculty co-chair of HGSE’s higher education concentration. “Instead, we will give our participants the opportunity to learn from experts in the field who each offer a set of key questions to consider as they craft a tailored solution to meet the need at their home institution.”

Alexis Redding
Alexis Redding

Redding explained one of the goals of the curriculum is to bring “a new approach to thinking about student well-being” by using experts across a variety of educational disciplines. Rather than present a uniform set of solutions, the programming offers “a set of key questions to consider” that will help educators find solutions that match their own culture, existing programming, and resources available.

The program features a long list of education experts, including HGSE faculty such as Senior Lecturer Richard Weissbourd, director of Making Caring Common, and Emily Weinstein, executive director and co-founder of the Center for Digital Thriving. Other guests providing insight for the program include the Jed Foundation Chief Medical Officer Laura Erickson-Schroth, faculty director of Boston University’s Newbury Center Anthony Jack and Ball State professor and author Amanda Latz.

“When you look at our faculty, every person has an entirely different vantage point on student mental health and will help us consider a different aspect of the student journey,” Redding says. “We will follow the arc of what students experience from before they even get to college through the job search and graduation. Along the way, we will think critically about the issue of belonging on campus, basic needs security, and students who have been traditionally underserved.”

The vast perspectives considered, and mental health factors explored, allow participants to go beyond the numbers and data to gain new insights and avoid the “hidden curriculum” — assumptions of common knowledge about mental health that can create barriers between educators and student needs.

“This approach will allow them to create solutions that fit their institutional culture, existing programming, and the availability of resources,” Redding said. “Every participant will leave the program with a concrete set of questions to ask related to each of our topics, resources to use, and models of practice that they can consider for inspiration.”

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