Faculty works to understand and address student mental health concerns

By Bella Angel


Nearly seven out of 10 college students report experiencing mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, or depression according to a nationwide survey of college students conducted by TimelyMD. And college professors often feel the pressure those students are experiencing.

Dr. Christine Denecker, Associate Vice President for Learning and Innovation and English Professor, says that the University of Findlay works hard to meet the needs of students on all levels, including mentally.

“I believe that the University is definitely on the right track and has the students’ best interests as its focus,” she said.

One of the ways that faculty and staff stay up-to-date on the best ways to assist students with mental health needs is by sharing ideas.

“Information is shared at different levels—sometimes these discussions occur within a committee, a department, or a college,” Denecker said.

A group of faculty and staff, consisting mostly of those who work with first-year students, will reconvene in April to discuss how to help students.

“The goals of that meeting are to come up with strategies to best support learners as they transition to the demands of college,” said Denecker. “Mental health will definitely be included as a consideration in the building of those new strategies.”

As the semester draws to a close, many students find themselves struggling with their mental health. According to Chad Shepherd, Director of Pharmacy Student Success, students start to talk about their mental health more towards the end of the semester, potentially due to juggling multiple exams.

Denecker says that the University of Findlay prepares professors to help students in many different ways.

“Resources are also available through counseling services and the CTE,” she said.  “Other, broader trainings that faculty and staff have participated in include discussions on students’ mental health. Instructors also do a great job of sharing strategies with one another, and the Oiler Success Center is another great resource when it comes to ideas for supporting the ‘whole’ student.”

Dr. Nicole Diederich, Professor of English and Lead College Credit Plus Faculty Liaison, has several ways that she likes to help students. She says that she tries to check in with students whose demeanors are off or who have been missing class and, depending on the level of rapport with that student, may ask them if there is anything she can do to help.

“I have walked students to the counseling center if they need somebody to go with them or if they need that nudge,” she said. “I’ve referred students either through the Starfish system or just by calling (the Counseling services).”

Diederich says that she is not the only faculty member who helps students this way.

“I don’t think that what I do is particularly novel,” said Diederich. “I think many professors on this campus are willing to do that.”

This level of support is encouraged by Denecker, who directs the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE).

“The goal, always, is to provide rigorous learning opportunities, but to balance that rigor with support and compassion,” she said. “This works best when instructors and students communicate with one another and are open/honest with one another.”

Shepherd also encourages students to reach out to their professors.

“Knowing students are sometimes intimidated to reach out for help (to faculty, staff, or others), I believe faculty can play an impactful role in a student’s overall well-being by simply asking how they’re doing and if everything is ok – allowing the student the opportunity to share what’s on their mind,” Shepherd said.

Denecker agreed that students and faculty need to collaborate in order to achieve the best mental health outcomes.

“It’s important for professors and students to work together to build safe spaces for learning,” Denecker said.