Section

Developing teaching practice

Abstract

During Covid-19, rates of mental health issues, particularly anxiety, rose significantly in university students. In the scramble to adapt to online learning, university professors were overwhelmed with material aimed at facilitating a supportive learning experience and preserving student academic performance in online contexts yet were ill-equipped to cope with the increased volume of mental health issues encountered. Many studies attest to the association between poor mental health and academic performance. It has been shown that students often report their mental health issues to university professors who are called upon to cope with these issues as best they can. This paper outlines strategies undertaken, in the context of a novel undergraduate mental health program, to address emergent mental health issues during Covid-19 student isolation. These practical, cost effective interventions can be used to successfully give voice to ongoing student mental health issues in a post-Covid world and to help professors feel equipped and empowered enough to contribute to stemming the tide of rising rates of mental illness meaningfully, appropriately and professionally.

Practitioner Notes

  1. In delivery of an undergraduate mental health program, the lecturer's expertise, familiarity with students and familiarity with the student’s academic and learning environment, needs to be coupled with the expertise of a mental health professional.
  2. It is recommended that the undergraduate mental health program includes some of the following: the giving of talks, question and answer sessions, one-on-one informal reviews with the mental health professional, anonymous invitations to share concerns through Padlets, post-it note surveys, anonymous questionnaires, the creation of podcasts or videos, information sheets, online Blackboard posts, panel discussions or more.
  3. Padlet walls, post-it note surveys and questionnaires are ideal vehicles for anonymous and voluntarily self-reporting to alleviate shame and stigma issues.
  4. Current Mental Health training for lecturers in universities predominantly do not reflect the realities of the classroom and are often ineffective.Integrating key learnings into lectures from the topics discussed by a mental health expert in the mental health program is a strategic way to not only re-inforce the messages but establish a caring and trusting student-teacher relationship

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