Campus News

Teaching strategies to promote mental health and well-being in crisis

The Center for Faculty Excellence has put together mental health recommendations and resources that draw on research literature and Carolina faculty expertise.

Sparsely filled lecture hall with signs on the seats requiring COVID-19 spacing and students wearing masks.
An exercise and sports science lecture class taught by Sherry Salyer at Genome Sciences Building. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Editor’s note: The following was adapted from a message sent on Oct. 13 by the Center for Faculty Excellence.

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 course work 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.

References

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.
https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2019.1576596

Imad, Mays. Seven Recommendations for Helping Students Thrive in Times of Trauma. Inside Higher Ed.
https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2020/06/03/seven-recommendations-helping-students-thrive-times-trauma

Fisher, Edwin et. al., How to Support Each Other During Community Mourning: Loss, Grief, Helping Each Other, Resources
http://peersforprogress.org/who-we-are/organization/peer-support-core/