Helpful Tips for Faculty in Dealing with Mental Health During COVID-19
(Adapted from a webinar hosted by the JED Foundation)
General factors for us to take into consideration:
Students who had struggles related to finances, family struggles, or history of trauma very likely have little margin to absorb the impact of this current crisis. It is imperative we check in with these students about how it might impact their ability to persist in the classroom.
- Some have lost their jobs and were already strained.
- Some are now living in homes with the family members that they struggle with inter-personally or in some cases may experience abuse from.
- Some are being triggered from past trauma.
- Some will have trouble with basic access, such as multiple family members attempting to utilize one computer, or not having stable wifi, or not having either.
All of our students are impacted, even if they didn't have or don't have these particular struggles/barriers. It will be helpful if we take the posture of, "We are all in this together" and assume everyone is suffering to some degree, but not necessarily in the same way you are.
In the mental health field we are constantly reminding trainees, "You can't do for others what you don't do for yourself". It is so important that faculty take care of themselves if they want to be available for students' emotional needs. We are most likely dealing with high levels of cortisol in our systems; practice healthy habits, such as prayer, meditation, mindfulness, sleep, good nutrition, and healthy movement. https://www.activeminds.org/blog/tips-to-stay-mentally-well-while-working-from-home
Here are some practical suggestions from the JED Foundation regarding instruction:
- Survey ALL students directly in your class about how they are doing- don't assume anyone is not impacted.
- Encourage students (and ourselves) to find a "new" schedule, finding consistent patterns of self-care, like sleep, exercise, nutrition, and hygiene.
- If students are expressing a concern, we don't need to concern ourselves with whether or not it is "legit", we need to trust it is their way of telling us they need our assistance.
- It can be helpful when responding to a student to first:
- Validate what we are hearing.
- Appreciate the concern.
- Refer if necessary (VAR Framework from activeminds.org)
Recognize that synchronous and asynchronous ways of teaching have benefits and pitfalls.
- If utilizing synchronous instruction:
- We have the ability to assess students' well-being better.
- We can implement helpful practices like allowing every student to share in a sentence how they are doing and what they are doing to cope. If they share with one another they will be able to borrow their peers ways of coping and won't feel so alone.
- If utilizing asynchronous instruction:
- Students who are having to manage other responsibilities may feel less stress.
- Finds ways via "office hours", offering your phone number to students or offering one-on-one Zoom calls to check in with you.
- Help students engage with each other in safe chat rooms to talk about it is going for them.