Reported symptoms of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety have spiked since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health awareness and advocacy is emphasized in many groups, but particularly those involving young adults.
BYU-Idaho professors Rob Eaton, Steven Hunsaker and Bonnie Moon are writing and publishing a book called Improving Learning and Mental Health in the College Classroom to provide professors with ideas on how to support students struggling with mental health concerns. This work began before the pandemic, but has become more relevant as more college students try to maintain their mental health in a post-pandemic society.
The book will contain seven chapters that cover a variety of topics including intrinsic motivation, emotional resilience and promoting wellness. Each chapter will cover the theoretical framework of these topics as well as suggestions for practical application.
Moon, a professor in the mathematics department, emphasized the importance of community and connection within her classroom, especially after having been involved in the book’s writing and research process.
“It’s important to me that (students) learn mathematics and that they have purpose, because that is part of it,” Moon said. “But it’s also important to have connection, so my class can be a place where they can come and feel safe.”
Eaton, a professor in the religious education department, echoed the importance of connection in the classroom, especially with students that may struggle with mental health.
“It might take me an extra 23 seconds to stop and be a real human being about it, but research suggests that can make a real difference in students’ lives,” Eaton said. ”When they feel like they have someone to turn to, even if they never turn to you, rates of attempted suicide go down.”
According to an article published by the Mayo Health Clinic, suicide is the third leading cause of death for college students.
Though professors are mainly limited to helping students in a classroom setting, their role can have a lasting impact on students.
“We aren’t counselors or psychologists … we know that, and we aren’t trying to take the place of them,” said Hunsaker, a professor of language and international studies. “We are just trying to help other professors identify resources and apply things we can do to reduce the burden of stress on students.”
Improving Learning and Mental Health in the College Classroom is due to be published next year.