Addressing the Growing Challenge of Student Mental Health in Higher Education

Posted by Tribal Group

In recent years, the field of education has witnessed a concerning rise in student mental health issues. According to Lee Rawlinson, Director of Institutional Research at Student Ventures, more than 1 in 4 students now openly disclose some form of mental health problem to their universities. While this increasing willingness to seek help is encouraging, it has placed unprecedented pressure on university support services. Many of these services are buckling under the weight of caseload overload. 

As a direct consequence of this caseload overload, research indicates that students are increasingly turning to academics for support instead of relying on the university's dedicated support teams. A comprehensive report on The Role and Experiences of Academics highlights the inherent risks associated with this trend. It emphasizes that gaps in service provision are putting academics in positions of substantial risk. Academics are being called upon to guide students to the right support services, services that should be flexible enough to cater to the diverse needs of different students. 

The report further underscores that addressing student mental health issues has become an "inevitable part of the academic role." However, academics contend that their responsibilities in this regard suffer from ambiguity and a lack of clarity, resulting in weak and uncertain boundaries, increased risk for students, staff, and universities, as well as hidden workload and time pressures that often go unnoticed by management. Moreover, academics report feeling unprepared and unsupported due to the absence of necessary structures, cultural change, and training, all of which have a considerable negative impact on their own well-being. 

Interestingly, the report also reveals that the relationship between academics and Student Services is often problematic. This dynamic creates gaps through which students can fall and where suboptimal practices can emerge.

When students fall through these gaps and feel unsupported, they are at a higher risk of dropping out of university, and in the worst cases, tragic consequences can occur. According to research conducted by Student Ventures in 2022, a staggering 937 students drop out of university every day. Even more distressing is the statistic that every four days, a student takes their own life.

The key to closing these gaps between departments lies in facilitating safe information sharing among teams. One effective approach is to invest in tools that promote university-wide collaboration, ensuring that complete and accurate student data is securely available in real-time to those who need it. 


Here are five technology tools that institutions can utilise to instantly triage and signpost students: 

        1. Chatbots and Virtual Assistants: These can provide instant support by answering common questions and guiding students to available resources, relieving the burden on support staff. 
        2. Learning Management Systems (LMS): LMS platforms serve as centralised hubs for students to access course materials, communicate with instructors and peers, and submit assignments. Additionally, they offer real-time data on student engagement, enabling timely interventions. 
        3. Student Information Systems (SIS): SIS platforms offer comprehensive views of student information, including academic records, financial aid details, and data on student support services. With a robust SIS system, advisors and support staff can quickly access the information needed to provide targeted support to students. 
        4. Data Analytics and Reporting: Universities can leverage data analytics and reporting tools to gain insights into student behaviour and identify trends that may necessitate intervention. For instance, tracking student engagement with support resources can help pinpoint which resources are most effective and where additional support may be required. 
        5. Virtual Collaboration and Engagement Tools: Virtual collaboration tools such as video conferencing, instant messaging, and virtual whiteboards have long been used to facilitate communication and collaboration between students and support staff. These tools enable support staff to provide more personalized assistance to students, regardless of their physical location. In fact, an increasing number of universities are considering the implementation of student apps to enhance engagement between staff and students, utilizing a familiar and modern platform. 

By harnessing these tools, institutions can streamline support processes, reducing the workload for support staff and enhancing overall efficiency. However, even with these technologies in place, organizations must provide support teams with the best possible opportunities to manage increased caseloads, streamline the delivery of targeted support, and optimize support resources.

One effective solution is the implementation of a dedicated, cloud-native, omni-channel student support system. But what should you look for in such a solution?  


Here are four key attributes to consider: 

          1. Enquiry and Caseload Management: The solution should allow for the centralised management of all forms of student support, featuring built-in best practices for case management capable of handling complex cases. It should automatically route cases to the appropriate teams, ensuring faster service delivery and reducing frustration and confusion. Standard workflows should be customizable for more consistent, efficient, and secure case processing. 
          2. A Clear Process for Requesting Support: Promoting well-being within the university community should be a top priority, with mental health awareness being integrated into everyone's agenda. The solution should utilise email automation, event management, segmentation, and notifications to effectively promote available capabilities and guide students to the appropriate resources. Providing students with multiple contact channels and an on-demand appointment booking system is crucial. Additionally, involving parents in the conversation through a secure and systemised feedback mechanism is becoming increasingly important. 
          3. Responsive and Engaging Self-Service: Ensure that all self-service resources are accessible through multiple channels and devices, offering students the most efficient way to address their mental well-being and develop resilience and self-management techniques. Students should be able to find answers to basic questions by tapping into your institution's knowledge base. The solution should also provide contextual signals to surface relevant content swiftly, as well as options for live, real-time, or automated chat to help students quickly access answers and suitable resources. 
          4. Peer Support via Safe Networking: Facilitate inclusion, collaboration, and community-building through a private, university-wide social network. Such a network should enable like-minded students to connect safely with one another. Additionally, consider the implementation of a responsive, accessible, and engaging student portal, complete with discussion-based functionality such as forums and blogs. 

If you're looking for a student support solution that helps support your team and your students, we have a dedicated product for just that. Check out our product information page for more information. 


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