Supporting Students' Mental Health Needs

October 18, 2021

Dear Faculty and Academic Advisors,

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen the mental health needs of our students become more complex and intense. The challenges of the pandemic, combined with adjusting to new or different social and academic expectations, has impacted every aspect— mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social–of students’ wellbeing.

Since just the beginning of the fall semester, the caseload in student counseling and other campus support services has almost matched the level of a typical entire academic year. Students have identified struggling with the transition to in-person courses, navigating campus processes, and feeling pressure to perform academically and socially.

We are deeply concerned, as are you, about the volume and range of issues our students are facing.  We all have a role to play in supporting students both in and out of the classroom as faculty and academic advisors, and as advocates and role models. Your empathy and compassion has never been more crucial for students as they complete coursework while balancing jobs, clubs and organizations, social networks, and family commitments.

We are writing to highlight three important ways you can support students’ mental health:  academically, referring students to resources, and by being aware of students who may be in crisis.

Academic Support

Some students are still adjusting to the rigors of college work, and others are recognizing that they may not be as academically prepared as they had thought. Both situations create stress, and you can help by:

  • Encouraging students to take advantage of faculty and TA office hours, while emphasizing that there is no shame or stigma in asking for assistance with course material.
  • Encouraging students to explore tutoring options through the Academic Success Center. Individual and group tutoring options are available and some courses have free Supplemental Instruction available.
  • Encouraging study groups to promote real, rather than online, social interaction.
  • Intentionally discussing topics in class that students may have found challenging.
  • Offering grace, flexibility, compassion and empathy as students reach out to you regarding their mental health needs.

Wellness Support

Iowa State has many wellness resources and services available to students. You may have described some of these during the first week of classes, as student health and wellness syllabus language is available on the CELT website, and please consider highlighting these resources in class sessions, through Canvas and email, or during office hours, now that we are at mid-semester. Mental health support looks different for everyone, and the following resources are options or first steps for students. An expanded description can be found here.

Student Wellness, 515-294-1099

  • Wellbeing Assessment Tool: This 15-minute assessment can help students understand areas of their wellbeing that are flourishing, and areas that may need improvement.
  • Thrive@ISU: A peer-led, confidential program helping students identify stressors that may impact their ISU experience and create a plan for success.
  • BASICS: A confidential, harm reduction intervention program to make changes to alcohol and cannabis use.

Student Counseling Services, 515-294-5056

  • Student Counseling Services offers many resources in addition to individual counseling. Self-guided support is option for students to explore if they are uncertain about seeking counseling or want to get started on their own. Two resources students can use any time include:
    • Therapy Assistance Online (TAO): A free, confidential self-help tool to help navigate mental wellbeing. Brief, interactive sessions help users gain self-awareness to achieve their goals.
    • Student Counseling Services YouTube channel offers a range of videos from breathing techniques, to managing intense emotions, to self-compassion.
  • Workshops: Student Counseling offers workshops on a variety of topics.
  • Let’s Talk: A confidential space for students to meet briefly with Student Counseling Services staff without committing to ongoing counseling. Sessions are held Mondays and Tuesdays from 3-5 p.m. in the Multicultural Center in the Memorial Union on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • If You Are in Crisis:  Walk-in hours for those in crisis are Monday-Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., on the third floor of the Student Services Building, or students may call 515-294-5056.  Additional resources are available after hours:
    • Disaster Distress Helpline 24/7 crisis counseling and support – 1-800-985-5990
    • 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline services: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or online chat
    • 24-hour Crisis Text line: Text ISU to 741741
    • Go to the Emergency Room at Mary Greeley Medical Center, 1111 Duff Avenue, Ames, IA 50010
    • Call the Iowa State University Police Department: 515-294-4428.

Student Assistance, 515-294-1020

  • In many cases, students may not know where to go to get a question answered or to ask for help. The Office of Student Assistance can steer students in the right direction and offer support to students navigating various life situations including wellbeing concerns, medical emergencies, off-campus living, unexpected life events or challenges, and academic concerns. Staff is available via appointment or walk-in during regular business hours.
  • Student Assistance staff can also reach out if a student is worried about a friend. Any ISU community member can complete an anonymous referral form.

Thielen Student Health Center, 515-294-5801

  • Providers offer a wide range of mental and physical health support and help identify and initiate appropriate, personalized treatments.
  • TSHC offers a list of additional mental health resources both locally and nationally to support all Cyclones.

We would also encourage you to review the Faculty and Staff Guide as complied by the Office of Student Assistance which outlines talking points and additional campus services available to support a student through nuanced situations. If you are interested in additional trainings, consider the “At Risk Mental Health Training for University and College Faculty and Staff,” a 45-minute interactive simulation to increase knowledge and skills about mental health and suicide prevention, available via Learn@ISU.

Students in Crisis

If you see or speak with a student in crisis, please call 911.

Take Care of Yourself

We appreciate the support you offer students and recognize that you and colleagues across campus are managing your own wellness, as well as that of family members and friends. We want to make sure you are aware of resources available to you should you need support through the Employee Assistance Program, ISU Wellbeing, and ISU and Community Mental Health Support.

Thank you for your continuing commitment to the wellbeing of our students. Together, we can support each member of our community, and enable them to thrive and succeed at Iowa State University.

 

Jonathan Wickert
Senior Vice President and Provost

Toyia K. Younger
Senior Vice President for Student Affairs

Andrea Wheeler
President, Faculty Senate