Monday, June 1, 2020

Mental Health Self-Care for College Success

When someone talks about mental health, what comes to mind? Most people think of mental illnesses like depression or bipolar disorder. However, this is a half-baked or very narrow view of mental health. Mental health is "a continuum ranging from having good mental health to having a mental disorder" (as cited in Aubrey, 2020). More importantly, if mental health problems [not illnesses] and emotional problems are not addressed, they can develop into mental health disorders or limitations in the student's role or functioning at school, work, or social and community activities.

If you have a restricted view of mental health, it is understandable. At times even counselors tend to misunderstand the nature of mental health. This is the reason many college success courses tend to avoid teaching students about mental health. There appears to be an erroneously belief that it only applies to a small number of students (1 in 5) who are contending with mental illness. 

However, good mental health is the cornerstone to success in:

  • School
  • Work
  • Relationships
Without good mental and emotional health, do you think it's easy for a student to focus in class? If a student grew up with broken promises from adult loved ones, causing traumatic attachment injuries, do you think it will be easy for them to reach out to adults for help (e.g., tutoring)? Teaching college success skills (e.g., time management, study skills, etc.) without first teaching students mental health self-care is like the "foolish man who built his house on the sand." When the rain pours down or the wind blows (stressors in life) and the floods come (adversity, like COVID-19), the skills that students learn in college success courses will collapse. Why? Because they were never built on a solid foundation (good mental health). 

Do college success courses teach students mental health self-care? The answer is a resounding "no." Most college success courses do not teach evidence-based, self-regulation skills such as mindfulness to improve mental health. I've taught CPD-150 (college success) classes since 2010 and I've always been dumbfounded on how course competencies never address building good mental health. In fact, since I've taught CPD-150 at at a local community college, we have used four different textbooks and none of them have adequately addressed mental health self-care or discussed evidence-based approaches to build resiliency. Surprisingly, the word "mental health" is found nowhere in the index of most college success textbooks, including textbooks that have been written by a school counselor. This is puzzling to say the least. 

Of course, most of us know that the health of our mind and body depends on good mental health. In addition, without a healthy mind, body and brain, it is challenging to grow. learn, and thrive in college. Thus, college success courses need to focus on the integrated [whole] person, the mind, brain, and body [even the social person] and this means addressing mental health. 

Thus, my work on building a new pedagogy for college success is a new and innovative paradigm. It helps students build a strong foundation by teaching them mental health self-care and resiliency skills required to effectively learn and apply college study skills even during hard times. 

Stay-tuned for more


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