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Mental health on campus focus of statewide faculty meeting at Ohio State

Solutions aim to address overall health of students, faculty

“Building Connections: Mental Health, Collaboration and Well-Being in Ohio Higher Education” was the focus of the Faculty Congress of Ohio’s Sept. 22 meeting at The Ohio State University’s 4-H Center on the Columbus campus. The meeting brought together faculty leaders from throughout Ohio to discuss mental health on campus.

The Faculty Congress of Ohio represents faculty at all of Ohio’s public institutions of higher education, communicating on their behalf with policymakers, the Ohio Department of Education and the public about issues related to higher education in Ohio. During a lunch presentation and an afternoon panel discussion, Micky Sharma and Ryan Patel with Ohio State’s Counseling and Consultation Service shared strategies to address the mental health needs of students, faculty and staff. 

Anxiety is the top mental health concern cited by students who visit the Counseling and Consultation Service, said Sharma, director of the organization.

“They’re not always just showing up in the counseling center – your disability services, your student health service. Mental health struggles are the No. 1 or the top three concerns students come into those offices with,” he said. “This is today’s student.”   

Patel, a psychiatrist and professor, cited studies in which students listed some of the major causes of anxiety, including pressure to excel, balancing schoolwork with other activities and financial concerns.

“The number of students seeking care at counseling centers has increased every single year” since the early 2000s, Patel said. “There’s been a national push to make it OK to talk about mental health, to make it OK to seek help.”

While virtual meetings with mental health counselors became widespread during the COVID-19 pandemic, most students now request in-person sessions, Sharma said.

“At Ohio State, we are about the in-person student experience. About 75% of our sessions are back in person,” he said. “Telehealth does continue to help with students who have a job, who have a student teaching assignment and (say), ‘I can’t get back to campus in that way.’ It’s just another option.”

Ohio State’s counseling services aim to address the entirety of students’ well-being, Sharma said.

“What we’re doing across Ohio State is trying to match the right support service to each individual student’s needs,” he said. “What we continue to look at doing is overall support services, taking what’s more of a public health approach and looking at mental health and overall health and wellness. That becomes where everyone can be supportive in that way.”

Faculty can play a role in helping students to practice self-care and prevent mental health crises, Patel said.

“One example is (playing) a YouTube video, taking a two- or three-minute mental health moment, gratitude or mindfulness exercises, a positive imagery exercise,” he said. “There are a lot of these examples that are free and don’t take a lot of time.”

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and getting regular exercise and a full night’s sleep can have a positive impact on the overall health of both students and faculty, Patel said.   

“You have a lot of influence with students,” he told faculty in attendance. “You can be a role model of good self-care and through some of the strategies discussed, contribute to a culture that benefits student mental health.”

For more information about Ohio State’s Counseling and Consultation Service, visit the organization’s website at https://ccs.osu.edu/.

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