Top 10 Strategies for Bolstering Students’ Mental Resilience

In the article below by Sally Spencer-Thomas, there are many good tips to
help students weather the current economic climate. Chief among them is
managing mental, physical and emotional health. When stress is high, many
students forget to get centered and often issues of emotional and mental
health are the last things students or families might consider. During this
time, parents and teachers can model perspective, resilience and
perseverance so that students have patterns around them of courage in the
face of challenge.

If you are working with students who have suffered disappointment, ask them
what other options they have and what they might learn from this setback. If
you are working with students who feel hopeless, ask them to document the
things in their life for which they feel grateful so that they can focus
more closely on what they do have, not what they don’t have. If you are
working with a student who doesn’t know who they are or what they want out
of life, refer them to a campus advisor or the career center where someone
skilled can walk them through questions which will allow them to see their
gifts and talents. If you are working with a student who has suffered a
family loss to death, encourage them to get help from a mental health
professional. The ability to get help–from friends or professionals– in
times of great challenge is the mark of a very mature and thoughtful person.

If we can all work together to show students how to cope, they will come
through this time with a creative, indomitable and strong spirit on which
they can draw for their rest of their lives.

May 15, 2009

As a faculty adviser at Regis University, I have seen countless students who feel under stress and wonder if they are up for the challenge of college life. That stress has only been compounded by the financial difficulties that many more students and their families are now facing. But the good news is that those of us who work on campuses can encourage mental resilience among students, even — perhaps especially — during these tough economic times, if we:

Scan the environment. We should open our minds as if we were anthropologists 50 years from now, returning to our campuses to understand students’ stress in 2009. What are the messages in the campus media? How does the institution’s ebb and flow during the year contribute positively or negatively to a thriving community? Who are the heroes? What are the rituals? How do professors and administrators talk about coping? What are other cultural cues that might be sending explicit or implicit messages?

Serve as models of emotional intelligence and mental wellness. We can forget that, at times, we feel as overwhelmed as our students do. I recently attended a conference where the presenter asked a room full of student-life professionals if within the past year they had ever felt so overwhelmed that it was difficult to function. Every person’s hand went up.

I certainly struggle with that every day. As a parent balancing family responsibilities with a full-time job and part-time nonprofit work, I am committed to making mental wellness a priority. While I am far from perfect, working at Regis reminds me to strive for the Jesuit ideal of cura personals, or care for the whole person.

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