The subject of deteriorating student mental health in higher education is frequently represented in the media as a modern phenomenon. Experts disagree and claim levels of anxiety and depression among students have increased steadily for almost a hundred years - attributing the increases to a cultural shift.
It is a fact that students in higher education today are more likely to have mental health issues than the generations that preceded them. However, increasing levels of anxiety and depression among students are not a modern phenomenon caused by the advent of social media, due to tougher workloads, or - as some commentators have claimed - because today's students are the product of Generation Snowflake.
According to a clinical psychological review of “Birth cohort increases in psychopathology among young Americans” (PDF), levels of anxiety and depression among students have increased steadily since the end of the Great Depression. The review concludes the increase is attributable to a cultural shift towards an environment in which more and more young people experience poor mental health due to an increased focus on money, appearance, and status, rather than on community and close relationships.
The Bowling Alone Theory and Why Intervention May Not Help
Other psychological reviews of data relating to student mental health in higher education have resulted in similar conclusions - typically that when students lose the immediate support of their extended families (by traveling any distance to college), they have fewer people to depend on and focus on their statuses in their new environments, and therefore become more anxious. This would imply attending a college closer to home would have a positive impact, but there are no studies to support this theory.
One quite contentious theory is that college and university support services contribute to deteriorating student mental health in higher education by insulating students from reality. The theory suggests coping with anxiety and depression is a self-taught skill, and when support services intervene to assist a student through a difficult time, they are denying the student the opportunity to learn from their life experiences and preventing them from building acceptance of adult life.
Naturally, there are scenarios in which student support services are absolutely vital - such as in cases relating to sexual assault - and it is important students are aware these services exist. Fay Cobb Payton - the lead author of a 2018 report into student mental health in higher education - suggests colleges and universities are now starting to find the balance between intervention and support by relying on mobile apps to help distribute information and resources on mental health to students in a private way.
How Mobile Apps Help Student Mental Health in Higher Education
Mobile apps can be used in a variety of ways to help student mental health in higher education. As Ms. Payton commented, mobile apps can be used for the distribution of information relating to the availability of resources; but they can also be used for group communication between students who are experiencing similar issues - effectively developing a new extended family that understands what each member of the family is going through.
Campus safety mobile apps also act as a virtual escort when a student is traveling alone and be used as an anonymous text tipping service to reduce crime on campus - alleviating students' concerns about their personal safety and reducing the number of stress triggers they are exposed to. A further benefit of this type of guardian service is that it integrates seamlessly with other emergency response services and mass notification systems, enabling students to receive geo-targeted alerts to further enhance their personal safety.
To find out more about how technology can help resolve the issue of student mental health in higher education, do not hesitate to contact us. Our team will be happy to discuss the features of our mobile apps and how they can help resolve the issue of student mental health in higher education. The team will also be happy to schedule a demo of our mobile apps in action so that those with a responsibility for student mental health in higher education can evaluate the benefits against the mechanisms already in place to provide support services.
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