How US higher education institutions are achieving strong outcomes
Chief Technology Officer Darcy Van Patten was recently quoted in Deloitte Insights on strategies to support student mental health.
Strategy no. 2: Harness innovation to improve mental health
“It’s about connecting students as quickly as possible to people who can help.”
—Darcy Van Patten, chief technology officer, University of Arizona (UArizona)
Mental health and well-being have become increasingly important to higher education leaders across the country. According to the most recent American Council on Education Pulse Survey, nearly three-fourths of over 240 presidents surveyed rated mental health as the most pressing issue. “Like many other institutions, we’ve observed a real increase in the number of students reporting isolation, depression, anxiety,” observes David Burge, vice president of enrollment management, George Mason University (GMU). “It puts a lot more demand on counseling and psychological services and coaching.”
One reason for growing anxiety and depression among college students is the pressure to succeed. Financial pressure, especially among minority and low-income students, is another. COVID-19 has only accelerated this trend. In one study of 33,000 students in the fall of 2020, half of the students indicated that they experienced depression or anxiety; in another study by the Healthy Minds Network, 60% of students said the pandemic made it harder to access mental health care. Moreover, research from Salesforce.org shows that 76% of students say they have trouble maintaining their well-being, as do 73% of staff.
The need for even more counseling services has put additional pressure on financially strained colleges. However, it’s also spurred institutions to think creatively about how to meet the increased demand, including through technology tools. A case in point is UArizona. Because the university had previously recognized and heard from students that mental health was a huge need, it had already invested some strategic initiative funding in improving staffing and providing more counseling support for students. So, when the pandemic hit, the institution was quickly able to implement telehealth technology for remote counseling services.
“Technology can help students self-assess and reflect on their needs. When they’re ready to reach out for support, we can connect them as quickly as possible to people who can help,” says Darcy Van Patten, CTO at UArizona.