To mark Mental Health Awareness month we’ve spoken to Sonocent Community member Jennifer Loue, Coordinator of Access and Disability Resources at Butler County Community College.
Jennifer is passionate about supporting students with mental health conditions. Prior to her role in Higher Education, she spent 20 years working in community mental health support.
Jennifer shared with us her views and advice on student mental health:
What have you found to be the most effective method of supporting students with a mental health condition?
Frequent interaction and acceptance of who they are and where they’re at in their understanding of their mental health. They know themselves the best and what works for them and what doesn’t in the learning environment, and we need to be accepting of that and encourage them to be ok with who they are. Frequent touch points and check-ins are what seem to be most effective.
What is the biggest challenge you face in supporting students with a mental health condition?
There’s not enough time in the day to provide those touch points. Also, mental health is “invisible” to faculty and staff alike so it is often construed as “unmotivated” or “lazy” student behaviour when that is far from the case. Mental Health Awareness is the biggest challenge in supporting students.
What is your view on using assistive technology for mental health support?
It allows for students to review course material outside of the classroom that they may not have been able to capture while in the classroom using the traditional note taking method. I always use it as an accommodation for my students if they want it.
What would be your advice to other Higher Education professionals on mental health support for students?
Make yourself aware of the person first, not the diagnosis. Do not pass judgment or assume you know what the person is experiencing especially if they themselves decide to be open enough to share their diagnosis with you. Be willing to listen without judgement; truly hear them. A quote I leave hanging on my bulletin board sums it up well:
“We need to honor the expertise of students with disabilities by accepting their understanding of a crisis and not to dismiss it.”
What changes would you make (if any) to the way mental health is currently approached in Higher Education?
Our cultural or societal mindset is a difficult thing to change but that’s what needs to occur. In a perfect world all staff and faculty would be required to participate in awareness training related to working with individuals with mental health concerns. I would also work to destigmatize it. 1 in 4 adults will experience some sort of mental health issue in their lifetime. We all need to not pass judgement.
There is potential for health and wellness for everyone and we all need to help others get there. And part of that is education.
A Fresh Approach
In the US alone, 37% of students report having a mental health condition*. With mental health having an adverse effect on cognition and the ability to study effectively, institutions are looking into new methods of supporting these students.
Highlighting and assessing these tools is how our Sonocent community aims to help overcome these barriers to learning.
To find out more about why assistive technology is increasingly used as one of these options, click below to download our checklist.
*2017-2018 Healthy Minds study