In light of the recent shooting at Michigan State University, student fear and anxiety can easily flare across the country. Mental health is already a growing concern on college campuses, but it’s all the more important to address in light of tragedy.
Seli Fakorzi, director of mental health operations at TimelyMD, provides colleges with proactive measures they can take to ease student suffering in the wake of catastrophe.
Prepare for tragedy
A postvention planning guide can help institutions organize relief efforts that can be scaled to different kinds of traumatic events, such as active shooters or natural disasters. With proper maintenance through scheduled reviews and assessments of its effectiveness after a tragedy, postvention planning can cut out an administrator’s need to scramble for resources and effectively facilitate a strong action plan.
A telehealth service like TimelyMD, for example, can provide 24/7 assistance for students.
“We feel like it’s going to take all hands on deck,” Fakorzi said. “We partner with colleges and universities to make sure we are just an extension of the services they provide on campus.”
Create an emergency operation planning team
Individuals react differently to tragedy; the way they do can be informed by their identity. A multilayered emergency operation planning (EOP) team can develop systems and protocols that serve a dynamic community, which is almost a certainty at big universities.
A proper EOP team should be diverse in its make-up: school personnel from different departments, student and parent representatives, and organizations that serve the interests of different racial minorities and religions.
The key for an EOP team is to be well-versed in the community so that it’s accurately represented and to build close relationships with community partners.
“Part of the planning is to understand what the on-campus community, the surrounding community, and the student body make-up is and to study their behaviors,” Fakorzi said.
Make space for students to process after a tragedy
Studies show that students are still most comfortable with peer-to-peer support when expressing mental health issues. While it’s important for colleges to create spaces for this, encourage the administration to be open and available when students do want to speak with staff.
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Promoting self-care among students
An effective way faculty and staff can guide students to recover from tragedy is by encouraging them to prioritize their well-being.
- Urge students to connect with friends and family members or contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for distress that doesn’t alleviate.
- Suggest they decrease their news intake. Screen time can hamper the healing process.
- Additionally, studies suggest that mindfulness and meditation can help reduce anxiety and depression.
“We have to find all the ways we can to help students find their way and thrive especially after a tragic event and how do they maintain a level of wellness long-term,” Fakorzi said.