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BORSC Interim 2021 Presentation: Mental Health

Our interim presentation to the board aimed to capture the situation on campus regarding mental health. We both displayed the ways in which a successful adaption to the pandemic had taken place, what the status quo is, and shared recommendations based on the input we received.

Below, you will find the presentation slides along with some additional notes on their contents (some were added again for accessibility).

  • 88.8% of college students are experiencing stress or anxiety as a result of COVID-19

  • 1 in 4 respondents aged 18-24 reported having seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days

  • The prevalence of anxiety and depression symptoms in college students were three to four times higher in 2020 than in 2019

COVID-19 has negatively impacted students’ mental health, motivation/focus, loneliness or isolation, academics, and missed experiences or opportunities.

  • Your living arrangements on campus (N=1,216) – 86.1% are generally to very satisfied

  • Access to services to improve your physical health (fitness facilities, health centers, etc.)

  • (N=1,224) – 23.5% are generally to very dissatisfied

  • Access to mental health services (N=1,143) – 31.5% are generally to very dissatisfied

  • 32% of St. Olaf students were “generally” or “very satisfied”, compared to 45% of students at other institutions

  • Out of 356 students that used Boe counseling services in Fall 2020, almost 50% were new clients (175 vs 181 returning)

  • Key issues: Anxiety/depression/stress/grief/loneliness → pandemic concerns and racial and environmental justice issues

  • 578 students are registered with disability that needs accomodation (~20%), last year 557, steady increase throughout the years

  • Way more people request emotional support animals – anxiety, loneliness, etc

  • Hardships during isolation/quarantine periods

  • Engagement has been low – fatigue -> what can staff and student leaders do about that? -> those who are engaging find it meaningful, can create community

  • Family conflict as new issue

  • dealing with death

  • “students are existing in multiple places with their worry”

  • multiple levels for e.g. bipoc and LGBTQ students

  • International students: unable to go home

  • stress for students who are multilingual and have to help understand what to do, receptiveness to the vaccine, based on for instance medical trauma

  • Now greater understanding of why accomodations are necessary, receptiveness

  • during the pandemic, many accomodations were no longer needed to be used

  • Many more ways to attend classes, take tests

  • long winter break as source of rest

  • Boe house only online; in state. Privacy concerns for students at home or with roommates

  • taylor center, wellness center offering one on one’s

  • now, the new situation is more familiar and we know better what to expect

  • Same goes for case managers, they have learned through trial and error how to support students (providing bigger meal portions, making sure each bedroom has a desk in it for students to do their academics, not moving students into housing at night when it’s dark)

  • Wellness center newsletter sent out to all students

  • New program targeting first years was started off last summer – mental health.

  • Mental health first aid – three sessions in December

  • More one-on-ones

  • Biggest feedback is that there is need for more events/resources

  • Lack of funding for preventative mental health specfically – only subtopic of one of four topics that the wellness center addresses

  • Only one person working on preventative mental health, and also supervising 30 students

  • Relieve stress

    • Surprise Snow Day

    • No assignments over break (such as no tests or essays due within three days after break)

  • “You’re not alone” mental health campaign

  • Policy on trigger warnings in classrooms and assigned readings

  • Immediate response to needs, e.g. in emergency situations or when a student is sent into isolation

    • More immediate access to Boe – last semester, for some time there was an option of same-day appointments

    • Mental health responders to jump in in emergency situations instead of public safety

  • There are not enough options for mental health counseling out in the community, and St. Olaf needs to make up for that lack (different for city colleges, but we are highly residential)

  • Need a campus-wide approach to mental health: proactive and preventative mental health care, taking a look at mental health from all aspects of campus life (academics, student work, financial aid, residence life, international students, BIPOC students, sports, campus culture, etc.)

    • Wellness Center has public health model, Boe House has 1-to-1 model → hope to collaborate more in the future. With the remote situation, Boe House had to change their strategy → more public health approach

    • Fund for preventative mental health (Wellness Center)

  • Education for staff, faculty (and maybe even students?) on trauma-responsive behavior

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