Mary Christie Quarterly A publication of the Mary Christie Foundation
Another Added Layer
The mental health of Black student athletes in 2020
Issue 19 | Fall 2020
Q&A: Pam Eddinger President of Bunker Hill Community College
Mary Christie Quarterly The Mary Christie Quarterly is a publication of the Mary Christie Foundation, a thought leadership organization dedicated to the health and wellness of young adults, with a particular focus on college students. The Mary Christie Foundation is funded, in part, by Christie Campus Health.
STAFF President Editor & Executive Director Program Manager Communications Coordinator Program Associate Art and Layout Director
Zoe Ragouzeos, Executive Director of Counseling and Wellness Services, NYU Marjorie Malpiede Dana Humphrey Anna Goodwin Rory Kelly Ashira Morris
ARTISTS Cover Illustration
BOARD OF DIRECTORS Chair
John P. Howe, III
Mary Jane England
Lisa Kelly Croswell
David Henderson, MD
Sarah Ketchen Lipson
Editor’s Desk This Fall brings heightened concern for teen and young adult mental health and wellbeing. The isolation of distance learning, cancelled opportunities, and the stress of becoming infected with COVID-19, have all campus stakeholders particularly anxious. Our cover story looks at the added stress of Black student athletes who are experiencing 2020 in its disturbing totality: the pandemic, political unrest and traumatic reminders of persistent racism. We continue to highlight leaders and experts who are working hard to improve the mental health, wellbeing, and success of all young people. President Pam Eddinger, a leading voice in the community college arena, describes the unique challenges of these post-traditional students. Dr. Annelle Primm, of the Steve Fund, leads the national conversation on what colleges need to do to better support students of color at this particularly time in history. In “Young Voices,” we feature four students facing very different “re-opening” scenarios; and we cover new research and technologies that inform and improve the wellbeing of students. Thank you for your interest in our work,
Marjorie Malpiede Editor
CONTE NTS 20 A Different Kind of Fall: Students respond to returning to campus during COVID-19 The students said that they hope to build upon the skills for remote studying they were forced to hone this past spring.
35 Q&A: Annelle Primm, Senior Medical Director of The Steve Fund
“Leadership really needs to acknowledge the disproportionate ways in which these crises have affected students of color.” — Dr. Annelle Primm
CONTE NTS 06 Q&A: Pam Eddinger, President of Bunker Hill Community College 11 Another Added Layer 20 A Different Kind of Fall 27 Interesting People Doing Important Work 35 Q&A: Annelle Primm, Senior Medical Director of The Steve Fund 40 Teletherapy in 2020 43 Science Summary
Q&A: Pam Eddinger, Ph.D., President of Bunker Hill Community College Interviewed By Marjorie Malpiede Dr. Pam Eddinger is the president of Massachusetts’ largest community college. She is also a national advocate for education policies that could change the lives of her students and those like them across the country. The first thing Eddinger wants people to know about community college students is how different they are from their four-year peers. At Bunker Hill, less than a mile from the historic battle site, 65% of the 12,000 students are part-time and 67% are students of color. The average student age is 26. While 77% of the students across the river at Harvard and MIT are in the upper two quintiles of income, that same percentage of students at Bunker Hill are in the bottom two. Nowhere have these differences become more obvious than in the fallout from COVID-19. Not only has the pandemic disproportionately affected the lives of community college students, it has, in Eddinger’s
words, “cracked the whole system wide open.” As she and her team work to plug holes in service and hang on to students at risk of dropping out, she wonders if this will be a chance to show the world what her students are up against; and the effort that it takes for them to continue their education in any given year. Since the pandemic, Eddinger has appeared more frequently in the media and on webinars discussing these subjects and calling out a higher ed culture that she believes misunderstands community colleges while at the same time pressures them on performance. The following is a transcript of our conversation in September: Mary Christie Quarterly: How has COVID-19 affected your students differently than the average college student in this country? Pam Eddinger: My students
are entirely different from four-year college students in terms of age, income, and a host of life circumstances that have made them particularly vulnerable to the pandemic. Almost all of our students work; many of them work full time. Three out of five of them are parents and half of those parents are single moms. The center of their lives are their children, their jobs, their family. Even though they know very clearly that getting a degree is going to raise them in terms of income and potentially break them out of generational poverty, college is the first thing they have to give up. We worry that, because things are so stressful, if our students drop out, they will never come back. There’s no waiting it out at home or taking a gap year. There is such a stigma around community colleges that folks think there is a low bar to get here. Folks don’t see students leaving a community college as that
important. But every time a student walks out that door, it is a loss of human potential. Students are also suffering right now from the lack of wraparound care we used to deliver. Community colleges have become social service hubs so when COVID hit, and we had to close the physical campus, students lost connection to resources. With the sudden disruption of COVID on campus as well as their personal lives, all the deteriorations are magnified. MCQ: You have been in leadership positions at community colleges throughout your career. Can you tell us more about the “cracks” in the system and what you think the impact of this exposure might be? PE: I think this is a real inflection point for us and it points to the tension that exists in higher education. I’ll give you an example. We have at least one of our campuses with a large number of English language learners. From the traditional lens, which looks at community colleges as communities of deficit, the common narrative says, “These are English language learners who have all these deficits to fill.” But the more accurate and asset-based narrative is that “These students will be multi-lingual in a couple of
Photo courtesy of Pam Eddinger
Pam Eddinger, Ph.D., President of Bunker Hill Community College
years and their language skills bring them a better salary and a steady job.” So our students are caught in a cycle – being seen as lower performing, therefore less deserving of funding and place at the bottom of college rankings. Traditional higher education doesn’t have the mentality of being “student ready,” to meet the students where they are. Rather, they want the students to be “college ready.” And yet, we have done a poor job in our com-
munities of color and of poverty to ensure that resources and services are available to prepare them. COVID just exposed the results of systemic failures that have been a century in the making. We have spent a good portion of the post-World War II period saying to our society that higher education is important. My colleague Michael Collins at Jobs for the Future, a national education non-profit based in Boston, explained it to me well. We 7
had the GI Bill, we had the Truman Commission Report, and we had the Higher Education Act. Each one was fundamental to the growth of higher education. But when you look at the results of these legislative actions, you see the GI Bill only served 5% of people of color. The Truman Commission Report allowed us to grow a system of community colleges, but students enrolled without adequate support services that would If we wish our students make them successful. to succeed, we have to And the Higher Education Act gave us the Pell change this narrative, Grant that was almost and treat them and their immediately outstripped cultures as assets. by inflation. When you look at education policy, none of it acknowledged the fact that you have populations that were previously repressed and underserved. We create a mobility narrative that if you work hard, if you have grit and resilience, you will succeed because we will put a degree in your back pocket, off you go into a good job and prosperity. But that’s not always true, because there are many barriers along that path. The flip side of that narrative is if you happen to fail, then that failure is ascribed to your character. You are a failure. You are morally deficient. The judgment of the poor is simply brutal.
For the last two decades, higher ed has been saying to community colleges, “You are not performing; you’re only graduating 15% of your students in two years.” So we say, “Students can only take three or four classes a semester because most work, so they can rarely finish two years, or even three.” It is not about the students’ ability to learn, or the college’s ability to teach. It is about mismatched expectations. When our students come to us, 95% are below college level in math; 45% are below level in English. So we spent the last two decades trying to accelerate their learning, but no matter how much acceleration you do, because of all of these other factors, it is often a stop-and-start, stopand-start. There’s not enough funding for me to say, “I’m going to pay you to come to school full time.” A decade ago, the State would support 70% of the student’s cost of education. The student pays 30% either out of pocket, or through federal financial aid. Ten years hence, the student is paying 70% and the state is paying 30%. We also struggle with a funding formula within the public higher education model that does not acknowledge the immense work going on at community colleges. We receive a quarter of the funding, but educate 50% of the undergraduates in the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts. When people say, “It takes a lot of money to do research,” I say, “It takes a lot of money to get someone from 9th grade to college level in a year.” How we fund, how we measure, how we set expectations – we must be sensitive to the work of each higher education sector, and understand that we are all developing human potential, along the same trajectory, but starting in different places. MCQ: What happens next? Are there any new strategies that are coming from your experiences over the last six months? PE: We are still in the middle of the crisis, but a few things are becoming clear. We will definitely be taking advantage of the fact that we know better how to learn and work online. We can use those skills to build flexibility for our part time students, our student parents, and others. We are also looking into what kind of services we can create to transform the delivery of services. Counseling, tutoring, and other supports are critical to student success. The big questions that we struggled with before the pandemic were: “Why aren’t students staying and completing? Why is there a gap in the performance between white students and students of color? As a field, we have been laser focused on curric-
ular and pedagogical fixes. But what COVID drove home for me was the critical importance of a sense of place, a sense of belonging, a sense of caring that we need to communicate to our students. It’s hard to explain to people unfamiliar with community colleges the courage it takes for a single mom, with two kids, working two jobs, and trapped in generational poverty, to even walk across our threshold. They are scared but they want to learn and do better for their family. But if you leave her to do this without support, and without genuine care and encouragement, we will lose her. Each one who leaves is a waste of human potential. Each one we allow to leave us is heartbreaking. Part of this work involves recognizing cultural wealth, the capital our students bring with them that traditional higher education may not recognize. We sometimes hear it labeled as grit or resilience; if we look closer, as scholars like Tara Yosso at the University of California Riverside has done, cultural wealth is a set of abilities developed through lived experiences and can be leveraged to support our students in their academic journey. It is not enough to say we are a diverse college and have mentoring and academic support. We need to realize that one of our systemic failures
is routinely seeing students of color, immigrants, first generation students, almost any post-traditional student for that matter, as representations of deficits. If we wish our students to succeed, we have to change this narrative, and treat them and their cultures as assets. I know this from personal experience as an Asian woman and an immigrant. A first-time college student who went to Barnard and then Columbia. When a non-white person goes to a large university of relative prestige, we are many times flattened into a representation of one particular thing. That objectification and alienation is real. I don’t think we talk about lived experiences and cultural identity enough when we talk about wraparound support services. We must do more to recognize the immense strengths students possess in cultural capital. Fortunately, we have begun this effort by building the idea of cultural wealth into our pedagogical practices. We developed a Center for Equity Cultural Wealth to support the development of curriculum and teaching practices that are culturally relevant, and community grounded. We are learning that the lived experiences of our students, when reflected back to them as experiences of value and assets, become powerful foundations for them to build
an academic identity, and eventual succeed. It is even more powerful when they find community and affinity on their academic journey. Role models, classmates, those who can show them the way and mirror back their successes. When campus re-opens and we have our physical space once again, we will be more mindful about making these human connections along with restoring academic and basic needs support. The pandemic taught us that place and identity are as basic and necessary as teaching and learning in the classroom. MCQ: Your students are the pipeline for four-year schools who are eager to bring in more students of color, more “first gens.” What can they do to help? PE: There are many things
they can do. The most important is a seamless transfer without credit loss. There is a belief at four-year institutions that our students, when they have graduated, are not prepared. Somehow our English 101 is different from their English 101. We need a straighter path that says, “Okay, if you have an associate degree from a community college, we will accept you as a junior in your field of study.” That’s what California did. I think we’re moving in that direction here in the Commonwealth. I had a student from Vietnam whose English was so bad, they wouldn’t hire him at Stop & Shop. When he left here with his associates degree, he went to MIT and graduated as a bio-chem major. We absolutely should not second-guess human potential, because human potential, when given a chance, always wins.
Dr. Eddinger began her tenure at BHCC in 2013, and previously served as president Moorpark College in Southern California from 2008. Her service in the Community College movement spans more than 25 years, with senior positions in academics and student affairs, communications and policy, and executive leadership. In addition to the chairpersonship of the community college national reform network Achieving the Dream (ATD), Dr. Eddinger serves on a number of boards and commissions. She was honored in 2016 by the Obama White House as a Champion of Change. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Barnard College in New York City and her masters and doctorate in Japanese Literature from Columbia University.
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Another Added Layer The mental health of Black student athletes in 2020
By Marjorie Malpiede
or student athletes, whose daily lives are dominated by their sport, the disruption caused by COVID-19 has been particularly disorienting. For Black student athletes, the stress of campus closures and “on again-off again” seasons is compounded by traumatic reminders of persistent racism, which can make 2020 feel like the most challenging contest of their lives. The NCAA’s Student Athlete COVID-19 Wellbeing study, released in July of 2020, found that more than 50% of male and female athletes reported a sense of hopelessness at least once during the COVID-19 shutdown. Mental health issues were highest among respondents of color, those who are facing economic hardship, and those living alone. Considering Black student athletes make up 32% of the college athlete population – 57% of all college football players and 64% of all college basketball players – higher
education may need to get a stronger game plan when it comes to these students’ mental health. Alisia (Giac-Thao) Tran, PhD, sees the events of 2020 as an opportunity to focus on an issue she believes has been under-examined and underaddressed in higher ed. Dr. Tran is an Associate Professor in the Counseling and Psychology Program at Arizona State University and heads the Tran Ethnic and Minority Psychology and Experiences Lab. Her work focuses on discrimination and its effect on mental health disparities, and she recently examined stress levels facing minority student athletes. In her article in the American Journal of College Health, Tran and her co-author found that 78% of racial and ethnic minority student athletes reported some form of mental health need and only 11% of those athletes reported using mental health services in the past year. Tran’s research
predates the events of this spring and summer, which heightens her concern for how these students, already at risk, are currently coping. “I’m trying to bring people through what is already there for these students and overlay that with what’s happened over the last seven months,” she said. Tran describes a cumulative effect. Student athletes are under enormous pressure with grueling schedules. They tend to focus on their body’s performance, not their mental health. They have difficulty with vulnerability and try to stay tough. After COVID-19 hit and seasons were either cancelled or uncertain, their whole identities were threatened. But for Black athletes, the anxiety runs even deeper. “The athletic identity reflects an important value system and COVID-19 was a threat to that for athletes of all races,” said Tran. “But Black athletes have intersecting identities, 11
so on top of that, they are seeing what’s going on in this country and asking themselves: ‘Does America value my identity?’ The evidence suggest that it does not.” For Division 1 athletes, like those at the University of Pittsburgh, the year could not be more destabilizing. As a licensed clinical social worker psychologist assigned to the school’s student athletes, Kristen Mackel says she has never worked harder. With service utilization “through the roof,” her days and nights have been taken up with teletherapy sessions with anxious students. She and her colleagues spend a lot of
time “reaching in” to connect with those most at risk. Many of them are student athletes of color. “Our students are on fire right now,” she said. “We need to consistently remind them we are here.” Pitt is one school that is taking student athlete mental health seriously. Well before the turbulence of 2020, Pitt moved from an out-patient mental health referral model to embedding counselors like Mackel into the athletic department to work directly with students and staff. The school is utilizing numerous strategies to help athletes
attend to their mental health, just the way they would tend to a sports injury. The effort remains a work in progress, but conversations with four Black athletes at the school suggest the program is having a positive impact in helping the students deal with these disturbing times. Their stories illustrate the similar challenges that come with their shared profiles, as well as the widely different perspectives they hold as individuals. Hitting Your Stride Matthew Wilson worked his whole life to be a student athlete at a Division I school.
Photo courtesy of Pitt Athletics
Matthew Wilson at the at NCAA East Prelims in 2019.
Now in his third year at Pitt, he competes in the 400-meter hurdle and other events in track and field. He thought he knew what the life of a student athlete would be like, but he now says he was unprepared for the rigors of the role. “Everybody says that being a full-time student athlete is like having a job, but it wasn’t until I got here and I got fully into the system – practices, lift schedule, training room, nutrition center – that I realized this was true,” he said. “People talked to me about time management, but there wasn’t really any time left to manage. My schedule is all laid out for me and athletics really takes it all.” By the second half of his freshman year, Matthew began to struggle. He says the move to college, being away from his family, the things that all freshmen experience, hit him like a delayed reaction. “By the time our outside season came around, I was kind of drawn out. I was tired a lot. My sleep had gotten messed up. I was stressed out about my classes and some outside things to the point where my performance took a hit. I stopped running as fast. I didn’t feel well. When we entered the post-season, I was completely burned out.”
At first, Matthew resisted seeking help, thinking that when he went home he’d talk it over with his mother. When he didn’t feel better that summer, Mathew decided to seek help when he returned to school. “I said, ‘Look, I’m an athlete here on the track team. I haven’t been doing well. I’d like to get some help with my anxiety, my depression. I want to know how to cope with all of it.’”
“I’m trying to bring people through what is already there for these students and overlay that with what’s happened over the last seven months.”
Matthew did get the help he needed and was having a strong sophomore year when COVID closed the campus in March. His season was cancelled. Being home in Virginia and taking classes online, he said, was “odd” but “okay,” though the interruption caused him to reconsider his commitment to Pitt. “I told my mom and dad I’m a little unsure about going back. Pitt is a very expensive school. There was this whole other area of stress for me because I’m an out-of-state student. I’m on scholarship but, even with that, it’s very expensive for me to attend Pitt.”
Matthew did decide to return to Pitt, but with a new resolve to expand his experiences on campus beyond just athletics and get the most out of what a university like Pitt has to
offer. Shortly before he returned for summer training, George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. “That really changed everything for me,” he said. “The video was really hard to take. The first time I saw it I didn’t realize what I was seeing. I remember sitting with a friend of mine…who just broke down in tears. I didn’t cry, but I felt the pain in a very personal “There’s always something in the back of way. I saw my dad. I saw my uncle. I saw my my mind saying, ‘Wait, younger brother. I saw hold back, don’t be the how any single one of troublesome Black girl.’” us could have been in that situation where it was simply the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong officer to interact with.” George Floyd’s death accelerated Matthew’s desire to become a more active member of the Pitt community. He joined a group called “Panther’s Unite,” which advocates for a stronger diversity and inclusion agenda on campus. Members of the group have met with the president and his senior team and have held forums where they discuss what it’s like to be a Black student in America right now. Matthew says the events of 2020 have lit an activist fire under him and have made him consider public office after graduation. As a Black 14
student athlete, Matthew feels particularly compelled to speak out. “When I think about those kids who are watching our conference championships on their desk computers, I want to say, ‘I did this thing and so can you. And when you achieve your dream to become a college athlete, you’ll understand it’s not just about athletics. It’s more than just running a race and getting time. It is an opportunity to get your voice heard before a very wide audience.’” Multiple Pressure Points When it comes to stress and anxiety, Cara Judkins believes she and her teammates have had their fair share. “You never want to say, ‘I have more to be depressed about than you do,’ but in this climate, it really feels like we do,” she said. A senior on the women’s basketball team, Cara talked about the factors that already affect the mental health of college students, college athletes, and college athletes of color. “On top of the stress that comes from being at college as an athlete, you have all this stress that comes from representing something bigger than yourself, bigger than your family,” she said. “You’re representing a team, which is representing an
athletic department, which is representing a school, and that can really take a toll on a lot of people.” Asked if this pressure is different than it is for her White peers, Cara said, “Yes, we have to deal with all this and simply existing as Black.” Cara says that she knows many athletes struggle with depression, anxiety and body image problems, trying to fit the ideal standard of what athletes should be like, however unrealistic.
asking for help, especially for athletes. You’re supposed to be strong all the time. You can’t show vulnerability because that’s associated with weakness.”
to opt out of the season and to ask those who do participate to sign an acknowledgement of the risks of playing, which Cara clearly views as a waiver. “They have put us in an incredibly hard position – stay safe or lose everything you’ve worked for,” said Cara. “First of all, most athletes understand that when your coach tells you you have an option to do something, it’s understood that it’s a strong recommendation to still do it. And then you’re going to tell athletes who love the game that they can choose not to play and not see their best friends for an entire season? That affects people’s physical and mental health.”
“You hear it all the time,” said Cara, describing the angst some athletes experience. “‘Coach said this to me, he must hate me. Oh my God, I gained or lost Photo by Alex Mowrey / Pitt Athletics x pounds and Cara Judkins plays against Notre Dame in January 2020. I’m supposed to be in the lean group. I look difCara said the ferent. Do I play different?’” choice is even harder for For Cara, who is immunoDespite these pressures, Cara compromised, the school’s op- some, like for teammates on says most athletes don’t ask tional basketball season feels scholarship who are afraid not to play because basketball for help until they are really like another assault. Amidst is their ticket to college. struggling. anti-COVID restrictions, the school plans to allow students In speaking with athletes on “There’s a stigma around 15
teams at other schools, Cara said, “We feel used – like they’re not looking at us as human beings.”
year has brought out a lot of ugly in a lot of people.”
The killings by police and the protests and counter-protests that followed exacerbated and complicated the situation for Cara.
Like everything he does, Tre Tipton works hard on his mental health. Having grown up in “a lot of different places,” the Panther wide receiver has experienced all of the stressors that come from being a high-profile athlete at a large university – fame, pressure, criticism and the myth that you are always okay.
Cara said that for many athletes, the drive to protest is tempered by the sensitivity to uphold the brand, the school. “I want to speak out. I want to raise awareness. But there’s always something in the back of my mind saying, ‘Wait, hold back, don’t be the troublesome Black girl.’” Cara is still deciding if she will join Teach for America or go straight to graduate school after she leaves Pitt; she sees either choice as a way to make a big impact. She continues to encourage her teammates to seek help for their mental health, as she has, from the counselors at the athletic department. She also suggests that colleges do more to make mental health a regular part of an athlete’s regime, with more discussion around what to do when you or your friend is feeling anxious. Asked whether she thinks change will come soon for Black Americans, she said, “No, I do not. This is just the beginning of a long road. This 16
“When you play football at a place like Pitt, it’s a different lifestyle. You have to be mentally ready for everything that comes your way,” he said. Tre says that includes the perception that student athletes, particularly Black student athletes, are less interested in being students. Tre strives to defy the stereotype, but finds the pressure to be both an athlete and a scholar enormously challenging. “You wake up at about 5 in the morning. You go to practice until about 1 or 2 in the afternoon. Then you go to class for the rest of the afternoon. By the time your day ends, it’s about 9. So from there, your time to study is from 9 to 3 a.m. Therefore, your social life is out the door.” Tre said that, in addition to
your life being laid out for you, student athletes are particularly trapped by social media, an inescapable alternate reality that can take a toll on their mental health. “You can’t get away from it,” he said. “Social media allows student athletes to see everything people are saying about them. They see their names being tagged – put in certain areas they don’t even know about. They can read articles about themselves at any given moment.” Tre says it can get to the point where what people are saying about you can be more important than your opinion of yourself. His coping mechanism is to find peace within himself. He and his best friend started an organization that helps their peers focus on their own strength. LOVE – Living Out Victoriously Everyday – gives people small gestures to practice each week that help boost their confidence and selfesteem. As Tre describes it, “You take what you’ve learned on the field, the court, or whatever may be in your life, and you challenge yourself to be positive; be true to yourself.” Tre believes these kinds of supports should be in addition to having psychologists readily available for student athletes. For Black athletes,
“A lot of little cuts.” Chinaza Ndee is a senior who plays woman’s volleyball at Pitt. She was born in Nigeria and raised in Houston, Texas. When asked about her mental health as a Black student athlete, she spoke first about the pressures put on all athletes regarding living up to their personas. “Every day is a battle because you’re up against such highlevel athletes on your team and those you play against,” she said. “One of the things I faced personally with all this was feeling like I needed to be on 24/7. I thought that I could never show any form of vulnerability or weakness.” Chinaza says when so much of your life has been what you play, your identity gets wrapped up in your sport. If your sport starts to slip, you can be especially hard on yourself. It’s something she says she is working on.
Photo courtesy of Tre Tipton
Tre Tipton, wide receiver for Pitt’s football team.
he said, it helps if there are therapists of color or ones who are particularly trained in the different ways the mental health of students of color are impacted by their identities.
“As a Black person – a Black athlete – not everyone knows what you’re going through; not everybody is willing to understand what you’re going through.”
“You really have to force yourself not to rely on your performance to feel good about who you are, because you are going to have bad days,” she said. The women’s volleyball season has begun at Pitt, albeit with a limited schedule and opponents within driving distance. Chinaza says she is just glad to be playing and feels comfortable with the safety 17
Photo courtesy of Pitt Athletics
Chinaza Ndee playing for Pitt’s volleyball team in a recent match vs. Louisville.
precautions Pitt has put in place. She feels less comfortable about the pre-election political environment and the racial unrest of the past several months. Volleyball is a predominantly White sport and, for Chinaza, an extension of a privileged upbringing, which included an elite private school education among mostly all-White peers. She is used to being “the only one” or “one of two
or three” Black people in the room and on the court. It is a position that has made her less likely to speak out against the microaggressions she has endured and she feels “forever grateful,” despite her well-earned place in the world. As close as she is to her teammates, she can’t always escape the hurt and distance that can come from being different. The killing of
George Floyd and witnessing it on video was a particularly strong example. “This incredibly jarring thing just happened, and I’m supposed to show up at practice and be emotionally steady in a way that my White teammates don’t really have to worry about,” she said. Chinaza says that this year, she is letting people know that social justice is something that she is fighting for.
She wants to use her platform and her privilege to make things better for people who don’t have her advantages. And she wants to remind people that even with her advantages, it still hurts. “It’s like a lot of little cuts every day,” she said. “It’s small and it stings and then it goes away. But it adds up and all of a sudden, you’re standing there with all these cuts on yourself and you feel like you just have to keep going because they are so small, why would anyone complain? You almost feel like it’s your fault for being hurt as much as you are.” Chinaza is a Natural Sciences major and plans to become a doctor. Looking Ahead These extraordinary young adults personify some of the larger challenges Mackel and her colleagues are working on, while affirming the importance of supporting the healthy development of such promising lives. Mackel said student athletes arrive on campus with widely different backgrounds and experiences, which is why Pitt now has a three-credit course for first-year student athletes involving dialectical behavioral therapy that works on life skills, wellness and resilience in all facets of life. Mackel says it is an effort
to level the playing field for any athlete recruited to Pitt that shows up less prepared to live independently and/or with less support from home. According to Mackel, the school is doubling down on efforts to help Black athletes facing the recurring trauma of persistent racism, regardless of their social status. The school has created a staff position, much like a Title IX coordinator, for students to report to if they have experienced any form of racism, differential treatment, or uncomfortable situations. A new committee within the athletic department on diversity and inclusion has grown to about 50 people divided equally between staff and students. Mackel agrees that more diversity and representation in the field of mental health is needed and sees an opportunity to strongly encourage student athletes to seek degrees and licensure that could dramatically change the demographic landscape of providers. Meanwhile, she believes it is imperative for all licensed clinicians to increase their efforts to become more culturally competent, aware of personal and professional biases, and be outwardly anti-racist. It is worth noting that a new survey released by RISE (Ross
Initiative in Sports for Equality) found that 91% of college athletes and 95% of coaches and staff believe racism is a concerning issue in the country. Involving coaches as partners in supporting the mental health of their players is critical, both from a health perspective and from a helpseeking perspective. At Pitt, training is a big part of the solution. Not only does Mackel and her team train athletic staff on mental health interventions, they talk frankly with students in front of their coaches about what they’re seeing and how to seek help. It is a message meant for both audiences. Emphasizing who they are as people and as students is something Mackel said is so important to do with Black student athletes, especially at Division 1 schools, who pin so much of their success on going pro and making money. Cheerleading their grades and advising on a “Plan B” alleviates this pressure and indicates that their value is more than just their athletic performance. Mackel’s most effective strategy may simply be her presence. Her check-ins between sessions are a reminder to the students that there are adults who care about them and what they are going through. 19
A Different Kind of Fall Students respond to returning to campus during COVID-19
By Rory Kelly and Anna Goodwin
ow campuses have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the lives of college students, and their higher ed trajectories. In the middle of the spring 2020 semester, the majority of students were forced to leave campus and relocate to safer, off-campus housing, such as moving in with family, while they grappled with the rapid shift from in-person to remote learning. Internship and job opportunities rescinded, student abroad programs cut short and cancelled, students and faculty alike learning how to best utilize Zoom, and uncertainty regarding school reopening plans served as the backdrop for the chaotic months that followed.
Students were not prepared for the sudden and rapid changes that the pandemic brought to their college lifestyles and routines, and their health and wellbeing was— and continues to be—majorly affected. The American College Health Association and the Healthy Minds Network, two research groups that collect college wellbeing information from students annually, combined their data for a better picture of the pandemic’s impact on student wellbeing and found that, compared to fall 2019, a higher proportion of students reported that their mental health had a negative impact on their academic work. Additionally, more students reported symptoms indica-
tive of depression during spring 2020 following campus closures than in the fall of 2019. Despite the widespread disruption and challenges, each student has had a unique experience during the coronavirus due to personal circumstances, priorities, and available resources and support. The Mary Christie Foundation connected with four college students to learn more about their experiences in the spring and summer, their plans for this fall and the academic year ahead, and how they’re coping with it all.
Kathryn Bartlett is a 2020 high school graduate, lives in Westfield, NJ and decided mid-summer to take a gap year for the 2020-2021 academic year before beginning her undergraduate studies at Emory University in fall 2021. Kathryn does not know anyone in her community who has taken a gap year between high school and college. During her year off, Kathryn plans to live at home and tutor local school children, offering her services to low-income families for free. She also hopes to write for her local newspaper. Kathryn enjoys hiking and horseback riding, was involved in her high schoolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s track team and newspaper and literary arts magazine, and is interested in studying the humanities and social sciences as well as continuing her work in journalism. Kelton Souza is a sophomore communications major at UMass Amherst from New Bedford, MA. He has a twin sister in New Bedford with whom he has been living since his campus closed. He had hoped to find work that would enable him to pay for rent living in an off-campus fraternity house in Amherst. Kelton secured two jobs but ultimately decided to pursue his studies remotely from New Bedford this semester. He is Portuguese, plays club tennis at UMass Amherst, and took up drawing since stay-athome orders went into effect in March. Campus closed while he was in the middle of pledging the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, and after completing his required assignments remotely, he was initiated at the end of the summer.
Pia Tiimob is a sophomore double major in English and journalism at Lehigh University and comes from Gaithersburg, MD. Pia moved home to Gaithersburg when her campus closed this spring and decided to continue her remote classes from home this fall when Lehigh announced only freshmen could live on campus. At Lehigh, Pia is involved in the African Student Association and tutors local elementary and middle school students. She has one older sister who currently attends Washington University in St. Louis and lives on campus this fall, as well as a younger brother and a younger sister who live at home.
Sebastian Steel is a junior economics and international relations double major at Lehigh University and is from Menlo Park, CA. An only child, he moved home to live with his mother in California when his campus closed in March. Sebastian returned east to Bethlehem, PA this fall to continue his remote studies in off-campus housing near Lehigh with friends. He is part Hispanic and a member of the European Student Union, the Lehigh Drivers Club, and the Lehigh Outing Club.
The pandemic interrupted the college experiences of Pia, Sebastian, Kelton, and Kathryn, yet each student has experienced, learned, connected, and coped in their own ways. Fall 2020 Plans Fall logistics presented a challenge across the board as the students awaited news this summer from their respective institutions regarding the upcoming semester and then dealt with late summer changes to the plans. This involved critical factors such as in-person vs. remote classes, housing, and dining. All four students had set housing plans with roommates when Emory, Lehigh, and UMass announced that only select populations of the campus community were invited back in-person. Kathryn was invited to campus as a freshman at Emory, though was told that students could only live in single rooms, all activities and classes were expected to be virtual, and all meals would be grab-and-go style to limit infection spread. She decided to defer for a year because she felt that having a fraction of the full Emory population on campus, in addition to the new protocols, would diminish the college experience. Feeling the loss of anticipated traditions for high school seniors, such as prom, which was cancelled, and a tradi22
tional graduation, which was replaced by the graduating class’ ceremony being livestreamed to friends and family, Kathryn did not want to start a new chapter of her life and miss out on the full college experience as well. “I never really got to say goodbye to my teachers or the people I may not have been close to but hung out with in school,” she shared. “So it just kind of feels like I almost never finished high school and that chapter of my life is kind of incomplete. It was definitely a disappointment. So unexpected, too...after missing a lot of my senior year and a lot of things I was looking forward to as a senior, I didn’t want to miss out on another important part of my life.” Kelton, as a sophomore, was among the majority of UMass Amherst students not allowed to live on campus this fall, but planned to return to Amherst to live with friends and classmates in an effort to recreate as much of the college experience as he could while learning remotely. “I love my sister and everything, but she has a full time job, 7 am to 4 pm, so I’m stuck at home all day, every day throughout the summer, and it definitely starts to get to you. So that’s why I’m trying to go back to Amherst.” When we spoke to Kelton in August, he hoped to get a job with his previous
employer at the New Bedford Whaling Museum so that he could pay for living in the Alpha Epsilon Pi frat house, as his financial aid only covers on-campus housing. Sebastian wanted to return to the Eastern time zone so he did not have to wake up three hours earlier for classes from home in California. Similar to Kelton, Sebastian sought offcampus housing with college friends. He was able to secure housing in Bethlehem, PA amidst the high demand due to Lehigh offering on-campus housing only to freshmen and those in need. Pia also had on-campus housing plans, which she committed to earlier in the summer. She chose a housing option that included a dining hall in the same building in order to minimize outside interactions. When Lehigh made its announcement, she and her roommate opted to remain home and complete their studies online as they had in the spring. “I also feel like it’s not safe right now...I wouldn’t want to be part of an outbreak that might occur. So, I feel like it’s kind of for the best...I kind of am jealous of people that get to see their friends, but they’re also like putting everyone else at risk in a way.” Pia said that while she was
disappointed to learn that residential living was not an option, she was not surprised. Response to University’s Reopening Plans A common theme among the four students was a desire for more transparent communication from their respective universities regarding the fall semester. They said they felt like the schools were trying to keep everyone’s hopes up for as long as possible for a “normal,” or close to normal, semester with the entire student body being back on campus and in the classroom. In the spring, Kathryn’s mother, who works at Rutgers University, predicted that colleges and universities would promise in-person, residential education, but would be unable to deliver, which turned out to be an accurate prediction for many institutions of higher ed. Finances loom over campus planning, as institutions experience high input and high output of money over the course of the academic year and tuition deadline cycles. Sebastian said he is “Taking a very, maybe cynical view that the goal is not education and safety, it’s to maximize revenue and make sure that the school stays afloat during all of this...they’re losing a whole lot of money between the
tuition discount, not having people pay room and board... So, I thought they were going to go back to campus because the revenue loss would have been too great and this was just going to be a financial decision and not a health and safety decision.” Like many, Sebastian “After missing a lot of was disappointed by his my senior year and a lot school’s decision not to welcome students back of things I was looking this fall, but he also was forward to as a senior, I surprised by the school’s didn’t want to miss out decision from a business on another important lens. Anticipating the Continuation of Online Learning
part of my life.”
All four students said they believed their respective schools did the best they could this past spring given the necessary and quick change to remote learning, but they also hope that their schools will reflect on what worked and what didn’t and implement changes for the fall semester and beyond. In response to the unexpected disruptions and the rapid shift to online learning this past spring, Pia, Sebastian, Kathryn, and Kelton, like many of their peers, worked to adjust to their new circumstances, which were not always conducive to studying. Pia mentioned that she had been studying in her room during the spring semester and found it hard to sleep in 23
the same space. For the fall, her mother helped set up a study space in the sunroom so Pia can have separate work and rest places. Additionally, Pia mentioned that going to the Lehigh library to study or rewarding herself for doing work by making plans with friends on the weekends had helped her manage her work while at Lehigh, and that she struggled not having this structure when campus closed.
Kelton, Sebastian, and Pia all remarked that online classes are not comparable to inperson. Kelton found remote classes less engaging as a student and struggled to stay as focused and motivated, especially as he found himself mostly doing work from bed. “Obviously, in-person classes are better...it’s a different environment and you’re forced to sit there and learn. So, I do get distracted sometimes, but I think I’m getting better at it, hopefully.”
The students said that this fall, they all hope to build upon the skills for remote studying that they were forced to hone this past spring. Pia said she was concerned about enrolling in a course with a bad professor. “They’re weirdly 10 times worse [and] inaccessible if they’re not good at responding to their emails...office hours will obviously not really be an option in the traditional sense, which can be really bad for some classes.”
where conversations on student mental health occur
Listen to the new podcast from the Mary Christie Foundation: marychristiefoundation.org/quadcast 24
“They’re weirdly 10 times worse [and] inaccessible if they’re not good at responding to their emails.”
However, Pia also noted that a number of professors extended themselves to support students this past spring, such as having six hours of drop-in office hours on Zoom for students. Sebastian spoke to the class experience, saying “In one of my classes last semester, the professor didn’t really know how to use technology...And then, some professors went very lazy...One class I had to learn from PowerPoints and then we would have office hours twice a week to ask any questions. I mean, that is so not worth it...not the same quality of education.” Pia and Sebastian said they hope that the professors, especially those less tech savvy, had sufficient time and instruction from the University this summer to formally learn remote teaching pedagogy and methods. Kathryn felt that a fully remote learning experience, had she made the decision to move to Atlanta, was not the right path for her. But at the same time, she feared that taking a year off between college and high school might interfere with her academic focus and concentration. For this reason, she sought out an online Black Lives Matter course offered by Rutgers University to continue to be academically engaged while she explores other pursuits during her gap year.
Attending to Their Wellbeing Prioritizing well-being, both physical and mental, has been and continues to be a primary challenge during the pandemic. The pandemic has made connecting with others even more difficult, as all four students noted, saying that remote or screen time with a friend, a professor, or a loved one does not spur the same sense of human connectedness as sharing an inperson experience with them. College is a time of intense immersion in both academics and socializing. It can be hard to find a space to be alone, even in one’s own bedroom. Interactions with other people is a common denominator across many aspects of a college experience—whether it’s roommates, hallmates, classmates, friends, or teammates. When campuses closed and learning went from in-person to remote, the social aspect of the college experience dramatically changed. Students were forced to adjust to interact with others mostly through phone calls, texting, video calls, and social media.
Kelton and Pia spoke to the positive elements of social media that allowed them to stay in touch with college friends dispersed across various locations as well as local friends whom they did not see during stay-at-home orders. At the same time, they felt that social media could be a source of negative energy. Pia said it was frustrating to see friends and acquaintances breaking stay-at-home orders and safety rules or seemingly on vacation while she and her family followed the rules. “People are like paying a lot more attention to people’s social media profiles than ever before, which is probably not a good thing.” Although some aspects of life are slow-moving these days, there is plenty of conversation on social media, be it about the pandemic, the economy, racial violence and disparity, protests, and the upcoming election, to name a few. Kathryn, Sebastian, and Pia all mentioned that once it warmed up around May, they started spending time with friends outdoors, making s’mores together around a
bonfire for example, which made them feel better. But Kathryn said that by the end of summer, most friends left for college when the academic year began, which sometimes causes her to reconsider her decision to take a gap year. “It does kind of make me have a few regrets about the gap year, just as people are leaving and I’m seeing everyone get excited in their dorms. It does kind of make me feel a little left behind.” Pia said she relied on her friends from home and from college for support during stay-at-home orders. Additionally, the biweekly African Student Association meetings and first-year academic support group meetings held on Zoom helped her feel connected to her Lehigh communities.
“I feel like it’s not safe right now...I wouldn’t want to be part of an outbreak that might occur.”
Kelton and Sebastian both said they turned to the family member they live with for support. Sebastian’s mother is a psychiatrist and Sebastian found her informed support helpful. “Most of it has just been supportive and she’ll say, ‘You’re not alone in this entire situation, and you’ve got to realize that this isn’t just happening to you, and I’m just so sorry...I know it sucks, just try to maintain contact with your friends.’” He said he had been writing down things he is looking forward to in the next few months as a coping mechanism since the annual international trip he takes with his mother over the summer— this year to Southeast Asia— was canceled. Sebastian said next year, he and his mother plan to travel to an area in Africa. The students all reported changes in physical activity, along with their “normal” routine. Many have found that they are less active due to no or reduced commuting, fewer events out of the house, gym closures, and canceled sports seasons. Sebastian mentioned that his workout routine got “worse, then better for a month and a half,
then worse” as everything initially shut down at the start of the pandemic, then gyms temporarily re-opened in his county, only to be shut down once again. Kelton agreed that it’s more difficult to motivate himself to workout at home and wearing a mask at a gym is not appealing. Kathryn, on the other hand, found that her shift in routine allowed her more time to dedicate to being physically active. She loves to hike but rarely had the time during a usual school year to go, and took advantage of her flexible schedule this spring to head to the hills. Additionally, she tried out her parents’ spin bike during the colder months and found that she really enjoyed it. Like Kathryn, Kelton took up a new hobby. He began drawing, which he took up with the help of Bob Ross videos. Sebastian, Kelton, Kathryn, and Pia were forthcoming reporters on many of the dynamics that students everywhere are likely experiencing —fears, uncertainties, and hardships, along with stories of coping and adapting. Kelton said, “At this point, you can only hope that it gets better and that’s what you’ve got to work towards.”
Interesting People Doing Important Work By Marjorie Malpiede and Dana Humphrey
Chief Program Officer, Active Minds
f you want to know what students think about mental health, ask Active Minds. The national network of student leaders is the go-to voice on the ground when it comes to college student emotional and behavioral health. And if you want to know why it matters, ask Laura Horne, Active Minds Chief Program Officer, who regularly reminds us that to improve the mental health of college students, we need to involve them in the process. Horne is a member of the executive team at Active Minds, behind Alison Malmon, its founder and executive director, who started the organization seventeen years ago to reduce stigma and improve access to mental health ser-
vices after her brother died by suicide while in college. Horne joined the organization seven years ago with a mixed background of marketing and public health that became the right skill match to propel the organization’s continued journey. Active Minds students are like most members of a student club with tables at campus events and members who form a community. What brings these students together is a desire to change the way mental illness is perceived and talked about on college campuses so that more students can access the support they need. Their cause is to demystify mental illness, whether or not they
have lived experience. “We’re trying to change the culture, change social norms, so we’re empowering and equipping young adults in the context of a campus to bring that mental health conversation into the open,” said Horne. “I believe the best way to do that for students is through peers.” Active Minds students are expected to engage with their counseling centers and other resources on campus. The national office of Active Minds, located in Washington, DC, provides context and resources for the students and for administrators and faculty
What brings these students together is a desire to change the way mental illness is perceived and talked about on college campuses so that more students can access the support they need. who are provided guidance on addressing student mental health from the students’ perspective, something that Horne says doesn’t always happen. “With the best of intentions, we often forget to make a seat at the table for students when we’re talking about their mental health, so we end up guessing what works as well as what the barriers are,” she said. Horne urges schools to engage students in mental health programming beyond the occasional focus group. This bottoms-up/top-down strategy has made Active Minds a critical thought leader in the field of college student mental health and has made Horne an oft-quoted spokesperson in the media and at national symposia. An Active Minds April 2020 survey on student mental health at the onset of COVID-19 has been referenced hundreds of times in the press. A second, comparative survey released in October will no doubt re-
ceive similar coverage. (See sidebar)
Active Minds’ founding mission remains strong, with a presence on more than 800 campuses across the country that have changed the conversation on mental health and how to access resources while in college. Horne says that as stigma has gone down and awareness has risen, Active Minds can now play a larger role in advocating for student-centered policy change. Active Leadership To understand where Active Minds is going, it helps to know where Laura Horne is coming from. The mother of three young daughters and a native of Louisiana, Horne received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in New Orleans (at Loyola University and Tulane, respectively). She began her career in social marketing and communications but, with the addition of a master’s degree in public health, she moved into community health, most recently as a program officer for the National Association of City and County Health Departments, where she was charged with creating coalitions of stakeholders in healthy community living. Horne says this broad expe-
rience in public health may have been an advantage for an organization that was looking to move into mental health policy change. “I often look at mental health as any other health issue and question why we aren’t usually approaching it in the same way,” she said. “You can’t simply teach people how to cook healthy meals if they don’t have access to a grocery store. In mental health, it’s not just about persuading people to seek services. It’s also about making sure those services are accessible to them.” For these reasons, Horne hopes that students will lead the way in innovating college student mental health services. She believes the current model is outdated – good for some but not for all. Horne sees the new strategies coming from students who have the keys to understanding what works. As an example, she says, “Our members ask their peers: ‘Why aren’t you accessing traditional services? Did you not know about them? Did you know about them but weren’t comfortable using them?’” Active Agenda Innovation is playing a key role in a new policy challenge campaign Active Minds is launching this fall. With a stripped down, actionable format that acknowledges
the limitations of a COVID-19 start to school, Active Minds is asking student leaders to do four things to change policy on their campuses: 1) Advocate for their counseling center to innovate their services; 2) Advocate for cultural competency for faculty staff and student leaders so they know how to talk about mental health issues without biases or microaggressions against students of color; 3) Ask their faculty and academic deans to intentionally share information on mental health services with students (professors may be the only link to resources for those studying remotely); and 4)
Find their school’s strategic plan and see if it states that mental health and diversity and inclusion are priorities and whether or not they are being measured. Despite the disruption of the pandemic, Horne is excited about the campaign’s potential impact. “I think we are going to see a wave of student-led policy change around these issues through Active Minds this semester,” she says. In addition to strengthening their advocacy agenda, Active Minds is aiming to grow to even more campuses
around the country, with a goal of getting to 1,000 campuses within two years. It has also started chapters in high schools and has been working with alumni to bring mental health conversations into the workplace. “This is about culture change,” Horne said. “We don’t want to just talk about these issues on college campuses. We want to take what we’ve learned over the past 17 years and apply it to other places.” When asked about the impact of COVID-19, Horne offered a concern and some hope. She
Active Minds COVID-19 Survey, Oct. 2020 In early October, Active Minds released new data about the mental health impact of COVID-19, showing that students are experiencing negative and worsening mental health affects due to the pandemic. In a nationwide survey of 2,051 college students conducted in September, Active Minds found that students reported experiencing stress or anxiety (87.03%), disappointment or sadness (78.06%), or felt lonely or isolated (77.47%) during the pandemic. Nearly 75% of students reported their men-
tal health has worsened over the course of the pandemic. The Active Minds Student Mental Health Survey also provided some hope for those concerned about college student well-being. The data showed that students are turning to each other and institutional resources for support during the pandemic. Two thirds of students surveyed report an increase in supporting others with their mental health. Additionally, 27% reported that they have relied on virtual mental health support, including
counseling, support groups, and texting support to cope with the pandemic. Other coping strategies include virtual interaction with friends (68.31%), in-person interaction with friends (53.92%), being around pets (53.88%), and receiving support from their families by living at home (40.27%). Students are also optimistic about the future. Seventyeight percent of students surveyed said they felt hopeful about their school-related goals and future job prospects.”
worries that with students out of their view, administrators are less inclined to include them in campus decision-making. As for silver linings, Horne believes the forced changes to the student health model, particularly those involving technology, will continue to drive wel-
come changes to the campus mental health model. She also believes today’s students, so frequently described as lacking resilience, are rising to the occasion and may finally get the credit they deserve. “Young people today are sometimes viewed as not as strong as previous gen-
erations, but I think we’re missing all of the large, social issues they are uniquely faced with,” she said. “Our students are actually very optimistic about the future; still plugging in, still engaging, despite all the challenges and disruption. To me, that is tremendously resilient.”
Director, Wake Forest University Wellbeing Collaborative
r. Nicole Brocato is helping schools improve the wellbeing of their students. Brocato is the Director of Wake Forest University’s Wellbeing Collaborative, a multidisciplinary, multi-institution effort that promotes college student wellbeing. The Collaborative is at its core a research group, but that’s just the start. They also help translate their research into practice - adapting and advising schools on how to engage in evidence-informed programming. The Collaborative, Dr. Brocato says, provides a framework for the “translational 30
research” the group conducts. For participating schools, the Collaborative provides interactive data reporting and a suite of tools that help colleges turn their data into evidence-informed programming. The group holds conversations on the subject that explain what it is, why it matters, and how to engage in it, and answers questions like, “How do you get your stakeholders? And how do you communicate to them about your data?” Through a survey, called the Wellbeing Assessment, the research team evaluates if students at a participating in-
stitution are well, and whether they have the “pathways” (or the skills, resources, and conditions) they need to be well. This frame is derived from the Engine Model of Well-being proposed by Jayawickreme, Forgeard, & Seligman. “The engine model is like a framework for wellbeing that then lets you create a definition of wellbeing,” says Dr. Brocato. “However, the way we have structured the Wellbeing Assessment and the framework, we actually leave schools with a lot of room for flexibility for defining wellbeing for their own.”
The assessment came first, stemming from a 2014 grant from the Reynolds American Foundation. Wake Forest had been developing wellbeing programming for their students, and wanted verification that the programs were effective. They brought together a team of leaders across various departments at their own school including Campus Life, Innovation and Career Development, Institutional Research, and the departments of Psychology, Philosophy, and Politics and International Studies among others. With the help of the grant, they were able to develop a measure that would be accessible and usable beyond Wake Forest. Dr. Brocato, who was brought on in late 2014 to help put the measure together, said that “the hope was always that other institutions would be interested in participating in the measure,” but that, “It took a couple of years of working to gain partnerships with other schools and making sure that we were understanding other schools’ wellbeing and assessment needs before we were able to put the Wellbeing Collaborative in place.” Since 2017, the assessment has been administered at 70 colleges and universities across the country. The Assessment gathers information about students’ wellbeing “outcomes” across dimensions like happiness,
life satisfaction, self-esteem, depression, anxiety, sense of purpose, belonging, academic engagement, and civic engagement, as well as students’ access to “pathways”—knowledge, skills, social supports, programs, resources, and other conditions—they need to be well in those dimensions.
“There is a mutual responsibility between the institution and the student and I think that I’m starting to hear more of those themes, which makes me very happy.”
Dr. Brocato is a researcher who has had a lifelong interest in wellbeing and in “understanding the human condition,” an interest that she wasn’t always sure translated into a career. “By the time I was nine or 10,” she says, “I was reading old religious texts and trying to understand the meaning of life and [asking] ‘what does it mean to lead a good life?’” Growing up in a military family that moved around a lot, Dr. Brocato was exposed to many different cultures which fostered an open, curious mind. A winding path led to undergraduate studies in philosophy, with some economics and political science mixed in. Before arriving at Wake Forest, Dr. Brocato earned her doctoral degree in Human Services Psychology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, completed dissertation work in applied psychometrics, and worked in clinical settings Given her background, it fits
that the Collaborative’s definition of wellbeing is flexible and inclusive. When working with schools to create their wellbeing measure, Dr. Brocato told us that, “Rather than saying, ‘Here is the definition and your model of wellbeing has to have all the parts that are in our model,’ we say something like, ‘Here’s this giant group of components that are informed by our belief that wellbeing should have eudaimonic, objective, and subjective components. However, you get to choose and we are not going to tell you what’s right or wrong about your own particular definition of wellbeing.” In recent years, the Collaborative has added inclusion and equity measures to their framework. This fall, they are offering a special administration of assessment that will include revisions that specifically assess effects of the coronavirus pandemic on student wellbeing, including content about the illness itself, changes in learning contexts, and COVID-19 pre-
vention measures. The fall assessment will also measure stress from discrimination and national/global events, standing up to racial discrimination, and basic needs. Personally, Brocato says she hopes that the changes brought on by the pandemic will cause those in higher education to pay closer attention to the differing needs of students, and rethink some outdated cultural norms. “If there’s one thing that I hope we have learned, it’s that you just can’t assume that everybody needs the same thing or even everybody in the same ‘group’ needs the same thing,” she said. “There’s just
so many intersectional identities and unique needs. And that doesn’t mean that you have to build a whole separate suite of programs for everybody… It could just be tweaks to things that you’re doing already but it does involve I think, some better listening.” Listening and learning about unique student needs is something she hopes will be carried over into post-COVID life. And maybe, Brocato says, that will lead to, “A little bit of a kinder, gentler environment. Rather than ‘College is hard, suck it up.’” Dr. Brocato said she’s seen a change to the way institu-
tions across the country view wellbeing, even before the pandemic hit. “I am starting to hear just in the last year, maybe two years, from leadership stakeholders and public health folks that universities are starting to be more aware that mental health and wellbeing isn’t a student deficit issue,” she said. “If a student is struggling, it’s not simply because the student doesn’t have enough knowledge, skills, and abilities. That there is a mutual responsibility between the institution and the student and I think that I’m starting to hear more of those themes, which makes me very happy.”
Nadia Ward, M.Ed, Ph.D.
Director, Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise, Clark University
he Mosakowski Institute at Clark University has a new focus: Improving the emotional and behavioral health of adolescents and young adults, particularly young men of color. It also has a new Director, Dr. Nadia Ward, a clinical psychologist and nationally recognized researcher who has made urban education and behav-
ioral health her life’s work. So synonymous is Ward’s experience and passion with the Institute’s bold, new agenda, it is hard to know when one ends and the other begins. In March of 2018, Ward interviewed with David Angel, Clark’s previous president,
who helped drive the Institute’s reframing. “He said to me, ‘We are concerned about the way in which Black and Brown boys are treated in this society and we want to do something about it.’ I nearly fell off my chair,” she said.
The Mosakowski Institute, funded by Clark Alumni William and Jane Mosakowski, operated for many years as an incubator for enterprises with social impact. With lots of little wins everywhere, it was still chasing the goal of making a big impact on a policy issue of national concern. With an interest in behavioral health, and personal experience with a fragmented behavioral health care delivery system that confounded even well-resourced families, the benefactors, together with Clark’s leadership, arrived on its new policy focus. Prior to coming to Clark, Dr. Ward was at Yale directing research that addressed educational disparities in urban schools and improving academic, social-emotional, and behavioral health outcomes for students. But it wasn’t just the skills match that drove Ward to Clark. The Institute was clear it would retain its entrepreneurial element and was looking for someone who could turn dreams into realities. Ward said the Institute is not just about helping to create a behavioral health system that promotes social and emotional learning. It is about doing so with products and strategies that can be practically applied and scaled. “This is what really appealed to me,” she said. “I was ready to expand my work nationally and internationally and
Clark gave me that opportunity.” Ward describes the Institute as more of an “action tank” than a “think tank,” producing both policy change and intellectual property. In the aggregate, it hopes to improve behavioral health care for “We need to better people who have been understand how to poorly served by the integrate technology into system and are dealing with social determinants what we know is good, of behavioral health, evidence-based practice.” such as racial trauma. Ward says any question about why Clark decided to focus an entire institute on these issues was obliterated by the events of this past summer, when social media accounts of the killing of Black people made persistent social injustice impossible to ignore. While it works on these issues through communication and convening (Ward has just launched a podcast), the Institute is developing products and services that directly impact the behavioral health and educational outcomes of young people of color. They are each based on existing evidence involving social and emotional learning and infused by experiences Ward and other researchers have had working in communities. The first major initiative comes directly from Ward’s previous work developing a social and emotional learning program called MAAX, 33
for Maximizing Adolescent Academic Excellence. MAAX combines culturally-responsive social development skills with helping young people navigate through middle school and high school and into college. One of the Ward’s first initiatives at the Institute was to transform MAXX into an elearning platform that can be accessed by students wherever they are. Even before COVID-19 moved curriculum online, the Institute was able to offer this new version – called Digital MAAX 2 (DM2) – to participating schools. Ward also led the development of “RelyOn,” an app that provides evidence-based information about the most commonly experienced behavioral health challenges facing adolescents and young adults. The customized app provides both a “brief mental health screener” directing the user to potential illnesses and a resource hub with local contacts that range from counselors to organizations that can help with housing, food, and transportation. Ward points to RelyOn’s multiple attributes such as: its versatility – it can be used by students, parents, teachers and counselors; its empowerment – it gives each stakeholder the information they need to advocate for themselves and/or their student; and its connectivity – it allows counselors, parents and 34
teachers to become partners in a student’s treatment plan. “What I love about the app is that it gives people the power of information so that you’re not left wandering in the dark about what might be going on with my kid, or my student,” she said. While MAAX-DM2 and RelyOn can be utilized for students along the behavioral health continuum, the Institute is developing more intensive interventions for students with higher needs. The first is an innovative approach to calming students in distress, often Black and Brown boys, whose behaviors are too often addressed as conduct violations. “A young person might come to school having had an experience, something happened at home or something happened in the community, they’re dysregulated, they’re upset,” said Ward. “With boys, this might manifest externally. They might get angry, throw a chair over, start a fight. With girls, the presentation may manifest internally; they may become depressed or anxious.” As an alternative response, the Institute is developing a program for sensory immersion rooms. These are school-based areas where young people come to manage their emotions by experiencing a programmed version of a calming space
– be it an ocean or a rainforest. A prototype will soon be available at a residential treatment center for boys in Connecticut as well as on the Clark campus in Worcester, MA, and Ward hopes it will soon be widely distributed in schools. Another product in development is a virtual reality program used as a complement to evidence-based practice for young people experiencing anxiety or depression. It engages patients who are not always successful at practicing elements of cognitive behavioral therapy in a virtual relationship with an avatar “peer” who needs help addressing common triggers. Ward says the program’s gaming elements and futuristic vibe reflect one of the pillars of the Institute’s mission which is to reach young people by using technologies that are embedded into their day-to-day experiences. It is something Ward says has been a major gap across the helping professions. “Clinicians and academics like myself, we will always be behind the times if we don’t meet kids where they are,” she said. “It is the same for teachers in the classroom. We need to better understand how to integrate technology into what we know is good, evidence-based practice. That’s how we are going to make a difference for youth.”
Q&A: Annelle Primm, MD, MPH, Senior Medical Director of The Steve Fund Interviewed By Marjorie Malpiede Sidebar By Rory Kelly Dr. Primm is the Senior Medical Director of the Steve Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the mental and emotional well-being of students of color. With the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Black and Brown communities and the country in a reckoning over racial injustice, Dr. Primm and the Steve Fund are in high demand at the moment. The Steve Fund’s Equity in Mental Health Framework (EMHF), created in conjunction with the Jed Foundation, has become the standard of how to create campus environments that support and promote the mental health of a student population group that makes up 45% of the undergraduate population. But even the EMHF creators could not have predicted the events of the past six months, which prompted the
organization to convene a crisis task force to respond to COVID-19 and the killing of George Floyd and other unarmed Black Americans. As a psychiatrist and public health expert well-versed in the intersection of social issues and mental health, Dr. Primm was a major contributor to the task force’s recommendations, which came out in September (see sidebar). But Primm’s background as one of the nation’s leading voices on mental health disparities would indicate she has been here before. Indeed, she asserts that the pandemic and the killings simply unmasked the social inequities and racial trauma people of color regularly experience and students of color bring with them to campus. We talked with Dr. Primm about her concerns for students at this point in time, what colleges and universities can do to support them, and what positive changes might
come from these disturbing times. Mary Christie Quarterly: Can you describe the context BIPOC students are operating within right now? Annelle Primm: We need to put all of the cohort aspects into context with all that’s been going on, number one being the public health crisis of the pandemic with its disproportionate impact, infection, and death in communities of color and with the risks that surround families of color. They are more likely to be employed in essential worker positions, frontline positions – whether it be in grocery stores, public transit, in the healthcare field, nursing and housekeeping, etcetera. All of these areas are disproportionately populated by people of color. These are the parents and family members of the young people that we’re talking about, so there’s a greater risk of exposure there. The 35
extension of that is that it’s going to cause those young people great worry. It’s going to mean that many of those young people have already experienced – and may yet experience – losses of family members or their own illness; the greater risk of death and all of the trauma and loss that that would bring to these families.
All of this will have, if it hasn’t already had, an impact on the decisionmaking of students of color about whether to even go back to school after last semester.
That’s just one piece of it. Then there’s the economic impact. Already we know that for the most part, people of color are overrepresented among people from economically distressed communities and households, and we know that they’re also disproportionately more likely to experience unemployment.
So they’re really bearing the brunt of some of the financial implications of the pandemic. And then there’s a domino effect that leads to insecurity in terms of housing and the risk of being evicted. There’s even food insecurity. We’re seeing long lines at food banks and so forth. This affects young people of color as well. Even before the numbers started piling up over the last six months when school was closed abruptly, there were young people in general and young people of color disproportionately who may have been facing tough choices about re36
turning home and perhaps to an environment that would not allow for safe distancing. There were dangers associated with returning to environments where perhaps there was overcrowding, or even rural and remote areas that had limited resources, such as broadband, compared to the campuses where students had been where their housing, their food, and other resources and supports including their health and mental health services were provided. All of these challenges that were brought on by the pandemic really intensified some of the challenges and burdens that students of color were dealing with already, including being more likely than White students to feel isolated on campus, less likely than White students to report that their campuses were inclusive, more likely than White students to report feeling emotionally overwhelmed at college, and being more likely to report keeping the difficulty of college to themselves. Those things that preexisted now have this overlay of the pandemic and all of its negative emanations on young people of color. All of this will have, if it hasn’t already had, an impact on the decision-making of students of color about whether to even go back to school after last semester. There are some
surveys that show that a higher percentage of families of color reported that their children were rethinking some of their educational decisions, which could result in them dropping out or having to delay the continuation of their education. The overlay of the killing of George Floyd, on top of the ravages of COVID-19, was really a tipping point. It lifted the veil off of what has been going on for hundreds of years. This is not new. There’s been a succession of these killings of unarmed Black people over the last several years, and those are only the ones that we know about that have received national or international media attention.
feeling of trauma; wanting to do something positive to call attention to these atrocities and become a part of the solution to change the policies that have allowed these occurrences to continue.
webinars called “Community Conversations,” which focused on different stakeholders – students, families, and mental health professionals impacted by the pandemic. One panel focused on the Asian American student experience as they have been really called out, discriminated against, and attacked as a result of the pandemic being blamed on them.
Many of the these sessions occurred before George Floyd was killed and after that, we felt we needed to gather together a group of leaders in higher education, mental health, and corporate leaders to weigh in and examine the experiences of young peoPhoto courtesy of Annelle Primm ple of color in Annelle Primm, MD, MPH, Senior Medical Director of The this context, the These killings Steve Fund racial trauma have raised the superimposed level of trauma, MCQ: What has been the on the impact of the pandemracial trauma, that people Steve Fund’s response to ic. The goal was to create a of color have felt and we these crises? series of recommendations know that young people of – both for the workplace and color have been particularly AP: The Steve Fund has refor higher education to prehard hit with those feelings. sponded to these crises with pare and equip these sectors Some have been motivated a “navigating a new normal” to respond to the needs of to protest, which I see as a initiative in which we imstudents in the aftermath of very healthy response to that mediately began a series of these multiple crises. 37
The Steve Fund Crisis Response Task Force Report, Fall 2020 In September, the Steve Fund’s Crisis Response Task Force released its report titled “Adapting and Innovating to Promote Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being of Young People of Color: COVID-19 and Beyond.” In response to the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on communities of color and the racial unrest following the deaths of unarmed Black people including George Floyd, the report outlines guide posts and implementation strategies for organizations seeking to support the mental health of young people of color, particularly institutions of higher education and workplaces with young talent. The Crisis Response Task Force who collaborated to create this novel education and implementation tool includes mental health and medical professionals, corporate executives, researchers, students, higher education
administration, and other industry experts, as well as the Steve Fund’s President, Evan Rose, and Interim Executive Director, Sandra Timmons.
tions across the five recommendations center around dialogue with a focus on enacting community-wide change.
The Steve Fund Crisis Response Task Force’s five recommendations for colleges and universities:
Examples include forming mental health task forces and DEI committees; taking stock of available resources across schools and departments and finding ways through technology, other services, and/ or improved communication to close any gaps in support; and adopting course design, academic standards, and advising policy that promote inclusive and foster a culture of wellbeing in academics across the institution.
1. Build Trust Through Racial Trauma-Informed Leadership 2. Take a Collaborative Approach to Promote Mental Health for Students of Color 3. Engage Faculty and Staff to Support Mental Health of Students of Color 4. Treat Student Mental Health as a Priority Area for Investment 5. Leverage Community and External Stakeholders to Promote Emotional WellBeing of Students of Color The implementation sugges-
Previous work from the Steve Fund includes the Equity in Mental Health Framework, a joint initiative with the JED Foundation that offers colleges and universities ten recommendations to improve students’ access to and experiences with college mental health resources.
MCQ: What are some of the most important messages for higher education? AP: Certainly, establishing the mental health and wellbeing of young people of color as an institutional priority is the first step in creating a college campus where equity and mental health can be manifested. That aligns with the Equity in Mental Health Framework. But given that, leadership really needs to acknowledge the disproportionate ways in which these crises have affected students of color. We should not think that we’re being polite in sweeping that reality under the rug because it exposes some uncomfortable truth about our nation and some of the challenges we’re still dealing with. Knowing that young people of color have been hard hit in the ways that I’ve described should mean something to campuses and their leadership teams in term of the decisions that they will need to make about resources – both fiscal and human. The Steve Fund has had some good conversations on this topic with college presidents and university administrators through the American Council of Education. MCQ: Are you seeing any positive changes coming from all of this?
AP: In one way I’m optimistic because this racial trauma is so widespread and so collective in nature, that young people of color know they are not alone. Also, there is a greater realization of the impact of racial trauma on mental health. People seem to understand that racial trauma is real and they are beginning to seek out support for their mental health in a variety of ways. For instance, there are so many online resources popping up – Therapy for Black Girls, Therapy for Black Men, there’s Ayana Therapy which offers therapists of color who provide teletherapy. With telehealth, more and more students are able to access help on their phones. This was a real boon for students of color because they could utilize mental health services in their preferred way without having to go through a door that says “counseling center” or “community mental health center,” which, for some, carries stigma within their cultural group. MCQ: Do you think the solidarity that comes from the Black Lives Matter movement is a reinforcement for students of color? AP: I’m not certain about that. I don’t know the extent to which young people of color and young Black people in particular identify with
the organization Black Lives Matter, but I do have a sense that they identify with the term because some of the things that have occurred – like the killing of George Floyd in broad daylight – would suggest that Black lives don’t matter. The importance of valuing Black people as humans and treating them as such is so basic and elementary [that] one would not think one would have to say it in a declarative statement. Yet, I think the mantra Black lives matter is an important rallying cry that helps to galvanize the humanity of young people of color and young White people of good conscience, who see humanity across racial groups. One result of the pandemic is that we are seeing how we are all connected and dependent on each other. We can now see how certain populations are disadvantaged and that some of that disadvantage is lined up with racial difference. In order for our society to operate optimally, we need everyone of all backgrounds to be as healthy as possible. Now we have an opportunity to try and undo, reimagine, and rebuild some of those structures that have created such stark inequities and negative health outcomes.
Teletherapy in 2020 New relevance for an existing technology
By Adam C. Powell, Ph.D.
his autumn, colleges and universities are using a myriad of tactics to foster a healthful learning environment in consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are having all students engage in remote learning, some are inviting only a subset of students to campus, and some are providing students with the option to attend classes on campus or remotely. Many of the operating assumptions behind student behavioral health that were true in 2019 are no longer valid. It is no longer safe to assume that students will be able to be treated in an on-campus facility or referred to healthcare providers in the surrounding environs. While on-campus resources will need to be maintained for a subpopulation of students in many instances, the needs of the additional population of remote students also must be addressed.
Fortunately, there are well-established technologies and practices that can be utilized to help students, regardless of where they are situated. Offering teletherapy to students is more important than ever, as remote students may be unable to access campus-based therapy due to COVID-related closures and travel restrictions. Furthermore, if students are permitted to return to campus, but are eventually required to leave campus due to increases in the incidence of COVID-19, then these changes have the potential to cause disruptions to the continuity of care. By ensuring that students can access the same care whether on campus or studying remotely, colleges and universities can help lessen the disruption that any change in learning format causes to studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; ability to manage their mental health. Mental health issues are likely to be more common on
campus this autumn than in the past. In April 2020, Active Minds surveyed college students to ask how COVID-19 had impacted their mental health, and found that 80% reported it had worsened or worsened significantly, and only 11% reported that it was unchanged. The survey findings on COVID-19â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s impact on mental health were from the beginning of the pandemic. For many students, the situation may be more dire in the autumn. Students remaining at home or in other off-campus locations will face a prolonged time away from their peers and the independence that they experienced in college. Students returning to campus face social isolation and periods of reduced socialization. Teletherapy is a time-tested tool that can help students overcome some of these challenges. In 1973, the American Journal of Psychiatry published an early article
about the use of psychiatric consultation by interactive television at the Massachusetts General Hospital. In the roughly five decades that have transpired since then, substantial evidence has accumulated to demonstrate that teletherapy is efficacious, regardless of whether it is audiovisual or strictly audio-based. Audiovisual teletherapy provides the clinician with insights into the studentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s physical affect, gait, and environment â&#x20AC;&#x201C; information which is all lost with a telephonic session. Nonetheless, even a telephonic session provides clinicians a degree of insight into studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; psychological state and allows beneficial treatment to occur.
able, colleges and universities should consider the benefits of offering students audiovisual and audio-only teletherapy options. Before the pandemic, there were a number of barriers to teletherapy that hampered its widespread adoption, although it has long been available. Medicare in most circumstances required patients to leave their homes in order to receive teletherapy, and employers had mixed levels of coverage, in some cases providing coverage via a direct contract with a ven-
dor, or through an Employee Assistance Program. Colleges and universities largely built their therapy offerings around the assumption that the student would be able to access the campus, with some notable exceptions, such as New York University, which maintained 24/7 telephonic support through its Wellness Exchange due to its need to provide a uniform-quality experience to the students at its various campuses across the globe. As psychologists and psychiatrists are licensed
While live therapy may be more effective than audiovisual teletherapy, and audiovisual teletherapy may be more effective than audio-based teletherapy, there are nonetheless therapeutic benefits to all three varieties of therapy. The added convenience of telephone-administered cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to improve treatment adherence, albeit at the cost of poorer maintenance of gains after treatment cessation. As live therapy may be infeasible due to the pandemic, and unpreferable to some students even if it is avail41
at the state level, interstate licensure issues have historically been a barrier to continuity of care for teletherapy provided to students that have left campus. Lack of reimbursement and lack of demand led to an environment in which teletherapy services were relatively unutilized. Since COVID-related closures began in March, behavioral health professionals have rapidly moved from live to virtual practice. An August 2020 survey reported that 81% of surveyed behavioral health providers began offering teletherapy services for the first time in the past six months. This rapid transition was fostered by a series of changes. State medical boards temporarily relaxed physician licensure requirements in 49 out of 50 states, simplifying the process through which psychiatrists could obtain licensure to practice outside of their home states. Medicare began reimbursing services provided across state lines, so long as the provider was licensed in their home state. Medicare additionally began reimbursing for live audiovisual telemedicine provided to patients receiving care in their homes, rather than requiring them to travel to specific sites. To foster the uptake of telemedicine during the pandem42
ic, HIPAA enforcement was relaxed to allow for non-HIPAA compliant video chat services to be used for care. Commercial health plans followed suit, with Optum enabling some members to receive teletherapy healthcare by telephone and through consumer video chat services, such as Apple FaceTime and Facebook Messenger. In response to all these changes, The Path Forward advocated that large employers work to ensure access to teletherapy. All these factors have led to a vastly greater quantity of teletherapy providers being available in the fall than was the case in the spring. There are a number of concrete actions that colleges and universities can take to support the mental health of their students during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Since many colleges and universities offer health plans that are used by students that are not on their parents’ plans, they can begin by ensuring that teletherapy benefits are adequately covered by the insurance that they offer to students. Requesting that telephonic therapy be covered, in addition to audiovisual therapy, helps ensure that students have access even if they do not have the equipment or bandwidth necessary for videoconferencing – or if they are living in a situation
where a videoconference would be a barrier to their privacy. In tandem, colleges and universities should explore other avenues for offering remote mental health benefits to students, regardless of their health plan. Offering benefits outside of the health plan is particularly important for undergraduates, as students may remain on their parents’ plans until the age of 26. These benefits might include telephonic triage, referral support, selfhelp resources, and limited duration teletherapy. While offering students enhanced access to care by offering teletherapy solutions is beneficial in any year, the unique circumstances facing students as they return to campus in the autumn of 2020 makes teletherapy more crucial now than ever before. Although adopting teletherapy may be new for some institutions, it is not a new technology, and has long-established benefits. Adam C. Powell, Ph.D., is President of Payer+Provider Syndicate. He holds a Doctorate and Master’s degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied Health Care Management and Economics.
Science Summary A recap of research worth noting.
By Dana Humphrey
Mental Health Severely Impacted by COVID-19 Pandemic
Several studies have observed mental health impacts of the pandemic among young people and college students. A survey released in July by the Healthy Minds Network and the American College Health Association described worsening depression and financial stress among college students since the beginning of the pandemic. The survey of 18,764 students on 14 campuses also showed that many are finding it difficult to access mental health care. Another recent study from the Student Experience in the Research University Consortium based at University of California â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Berkeley showed pandemic-driven increases in depression and anxiety among college students. The survey of 30,725 undergraduate students and 15,346 graduate and professional students at nine U.S. public research universities nationwide found that 35% of undergraduates screened positive for major depressive disorder, while 39% of all students screened positive for anxiety disorder. The number of
students who screened positive for anxiety disorder in the study was up by 50% compared to one conducted in 2019. The prevalence of major depressive disorder was two times higher among graduate and professional students, compared to 2019. The rate of anxiety and depression was higher among low-income students, students of color, LGBTQ+ students and those who are caring for loved ones. A study published in Psychiatry Research suggests that young adults with suspected or diagnosed mental health conditions experienced elevated levels of distress during the months of April and May, compared to those without any confirmed or suspected diagnoses. Young adults with a suspected or confirmed diagnosis were found to have higher levels of depression, anxiety, PTSD, COVID-19-related worry and grief, poorer sleep, and poorer reported health-related quality of life.
Stress and Anxiety Management Programs
A new Yale study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry examined mental health interventions on university campuses. Seppälä et al. found that when college students learn specific techniques for managing stress and anxiety, their well-being improves across a range of measures. In a randomized control trial, the research team evaluated three semester-long classroom-based wellness training programs that incorporate breathing and emotional intelligence strategies.
Black and Latino Students Education Access
A report by the Education Trust demonstrates that black students have less access to the most selective public colleges in the United States than they did in 2000. For their analysis, the organization graded 101 public colleges based on the share of their students that were Black or Latino, compared with the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds from those demographic groups in each college’s state. An institution that served an undergraduate student body representative of the racial and ethnic diversity of their state’s population received an A. Poorly performing colleges
Of the three, two led to improvements in aspects of well-being when compared to a control group. SKY Campus Happiness, a well-being and resilience program, was found to be the most effective, and led to improvements in six areas of well-being: depression, stress, mental health, mindfulness, positive affect and social connectedness. The researchers concluded that the two effective programs may be cost effective and efficient ways to proactively address mental health for university students.
received an F. Most colleges failed, and less than a quarter received a passing grade for black student representation. Fewer than one in ten institutions received an A. Over the past two decades, the percentage of black students has decreased at close to 60% of the most selective public colleges and universities. According to the reports authors, the findings “show very little progress has been made since 2000, and the overwhelming majority of the nation’s most selective public colleges are still inaccessible for Black and Latino undergraduates.”
COVID-19â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Disparate Effects on Low Income Students
The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately effected students from low income and working class backgrounds. New research from the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) examines undergraduate, graduate, and professional studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; experiences during the pandemic, finding that students from low-income families and students of color reported higher levels of food and housing security, depressive symptoms, ahd financial strains. According to Social Class Differences in Studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Experiences during the COVID-19 Pandemic, a survey of 45,000 students, showed that students from low-income and
working-class backgrounds were significantly more likely to experience financial hardships like the loss of income from family members, increases in living expenses, the loss/cancellation of jobs or internships, and the loss of wages from off-campus employment. These students also disproportionately experienced academic obstacles during the transition to remote learning, including lack of access to technology, learning support services and a place to study. Authors Krista M. Soria and Bonnie Horgos encouraged colleges and universities to consider the unique needs and experiences of students from low-income and working-class backgrounds.