Professors speak out on mental health

By: Brittany Rosso

“I fear our profession has lost some of the humanity it used to have.”- Survey Participant.

NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – In an anonymous survey, professors had the chance to share their opinions towards faculty mental health first-aid training. Out of approximately 100 recipients of the survey, 35 chose to respond. Areas that were considered when developing this survey focused on professors’ ability to respond to mental health emergencies in the classroom; a case where they may be unable to get the student to counseling services. Other areas included investigating how they view their role in student mental health and their opinions about getting mental health training on campus. Here’s what they had to say.

When asked if they feel that it is part of their responsibility to handle student-mental health issues, 32 of 35 said “yes,” while two others voted “no.” This is an important area to consider when investigating how mental health first-aid is handled on college campuses. Some professors may feel that mental health first-aid should be kept strictly to counseling services, and wish to not have any involvement in handling such situations.

While investigating how able and prepared Niagara University professors feel to handle such situations, I found many interesting results. Out of 35 professors, 15 said that they have encountered a situation where a student was in a state of emergency or presented that they needed mental health assistance in the classroom. Although some chose to respond “not applicable” or skip answering the question, 11 professors felt able to safely and correctly handle the situation and assist the student. However, four did not. Though the majority voted “yes,” it is important to consider how we as a community can and should improve towards making sure all of our faculty and staff are able to respond “yes” to this question.

Later in the survey, only five out of 35 professors voted that they felt “very well prepared” to handle situations without mental health preparedness training. Meanwhile, 22 voted that they feel “able, but that training would be helpful,” and the remaining seven voted that they felt “uncomfortable, not prepared or concerned” about handling these types of situations. Similarly, when asked how important they consider faculty-student mental health training sessions, 32 voted either “very important” or “valuable and helpful if they were available,” while two voted “not important.”

When asked if they think that NU should provide an opportunity for faculty and staff to undergo mental health first-aid preparedness training sessions, 34 of 35 voted “yes,” with 32 of 34 also willing to participate in them.

At the end of the survey, I also discovered that only 12 of 35 professors have ever been through a training where they were exposed to things such as warning signs, how to suggest help and first aid care.

Lets face it. This is a problem that we need to further investigate and change.

Mental health concerns are on the rise with a heavy effect on college campuses across the United States. Most importantly, several instances occur in the classroom or during professors’ office hours, where the issues are often noticed – under professor supervision – in the students day-to-day performances or perhaps in their grades.  

Noticing warning signs and understanding how to suggest help are crucial first steps in the first aid process. That is where we need to start improving our preparedness precautions. 

Listen up Niagara, its time to act now to make changes. Lets not just be another University that contributes to the statistics of rising mental-health problems on college campuses.

Feature image via Survey Monkey Results

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