Teaching Strategies to Promote Mental Health and Wellbeing in Crisis
Our campus community has been impacted by the tragic loss of student lives in our mental health crisis. As our campus responds to this crisis, we grieve these losses. To support our students and each other, the Center for Faculty Excellence (CFE) has put together recommendations and resources for faculty in their teaching roles. These recommendations are based on research literature on supporting students, campus communications, resources such as the Carolina Peer Support Collaborative/UNC-CH Peer Support Core, members of the Continuity of Teaching group, and the CFE. Please reach out to the CFE if you have questions or need more information.
Be caring—and authentic
- Reach out. Even a supportive email can be helpful.
- Let students know that they are valued. Many are feeling isolated and unsure.
- Consider starting class by acknowledging the challenge of focusing on coursework when the campus has experienced a tragedy.
- Consider offering a moment of silence to remember those impacted and/or for students to collect their thoughts.
- If you feel comfortable, consider sharing any impact the events had on you personally and/or professionally.
Be flexible and proactive
- Postpone deadlines, grant extensions, and/or excuse students from learning activities, assessments, assignments. Be proactive; students who need help may not want to ask for accommodations.
- Change class routines and offer academic skills support as needed to support learning.
- These options are not only permissible but are encouraged to help students during this difficult time.
Be explicit in support
- Traumatic events and stress often impact a student’s ability to perform basic tasks. Use extra communications to reinforce a feeling of safety, to communicate expectations, to make flexibility (or revised deadlines) clear, or to remind students of resources.
- In class or emails, state or make clear your concern for students.
- Be clear about your availability to talk or meet with your students. Let them know how to reach you and what to expect. Offer additional office hours if you are able.
- Example: “This is a hard time, and we need to be there for each other. Please feel free to contact me personally, by email, or in office hours. Feel free to respond to others in class if you have thoughts or feelings you would like to share.”
Be aware and resourceful
- Stay updated on campus communications and share with students when needed.
- Remind students of mental health and wellness resources on campus.
- Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
- Peer-to-peer mental health resources and a helpful self-screening tool
- Peer wellness groups, well-being coaches, and other wellness info about healthy relationships, nutrition, financial literacy, and more
- Peer tutoring and academic support in a broad range of courses
- UNC Office of Student Wellness
- Community Support Centers are available this week as noted in the Chancellor’s communication
- Learn how to identify and communicate with someone in a mental health crisis. Consider Mental Health First Aid Training.
- Stay connected. Reach out to colleagues and your support network.
- Join the CFE’s weekly “Conversations on Teaching” each Wednesday (12:00 PM – 1:00 PM) and Thursday (11:30 AM -12:30 PM) via Zoom. Check the CFE Calendar to join via the Zoom link.
- Request a consultation through the Keep Teaching website.
- Take care of yourself. Reach out to the Employee Assistance Program for mental health and stress management resources.
Baik, C., Larcome, W., and Brooker, A. (2019). How Universities Can Enhance Student Mental Wellbeing: the Student Perspective. Higher Education Research & Development. Vol. 38, Issue 4. Feb. 11, 2019.
Imad, Mays. Seven Recommendations for Helping Students Thrive in Times of Trauma. Inside Higher Ed.
Fisher, Edwin et. al., How to Support Each Other During Community Mourning: Loss, Grief, Helping Each Other, Resources