Best Practices for Faculty in Supporting Mental Health

Faculty can play an important role in students’ mental health. Montclair State University faculty are in a unique position to identify students who may need counseling. Because of your frequent contact with students, you are able to observe changes in their behavior that may indicate emotional distress.

Best Practices in Supporting Students For Faculty

Summary Report from Hanover Research

College Students and Mental Health

College students face high levels of mental health issues, which increased in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic.  They may be struggling with stress and feeling overwhelmed. Students of color and students who are members of historically underserved populations face additional mental health risks. Students report that many factors influence their academic performance. Impediments to success often include stress, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, and relationship concerns.  

Faculty’s Role in Students’ Mental Health

  • Become familiar with common student mental health signs  – Some important signs that a student may be struggling with their mental health include:  

    • Missed assignments
    • Repeated absences
    • Decline in academic performance
    • Reduced participation in class
    • Alarming or worrisome content in assignments
    • Excessive fatigue
    • Poor personal hygiene
    • Inappropriate or exaggerated behavior
  • Be prepared to have mental health conversations with students and have those conversations when necessary.  
    • Take CAPS’ offered online gatekeeper training. The Kognito At-Risk Training will help you build the confidence to talk with a student about whom you are concerned, and you will learn how to identify, approach, and refer at-risk students. 
    • As an example of a conversation starter, introduce the topic of counseling to a student by summarizing what you see as the content of the problem. Be direct, specific, and non-judgmental. For example, say something like, “I’ve noticed that you’re falling asleep in class and I’m concerned,” rather than “Why are you constantly asleep in my class?” You can then refer the student to CAPS so they don’t have to deal with a potential problem alone.
  • Incorporate mental health well-being practices into your teaching 
    • Offer regular check-ins with students.  This could be reserving a few minutes at the beginning of class to ask everyone how they are feeling that day. Or you might also consider beginning each class with an ”I Need a Minute” type one-minute meditation or three minutes of yoga or stretching. You can find a short video or recordings and follow along with your students. There are many good options available on Youtube.
    • Allow students to give you anonymous feedback. Offering a Midterm Teaching and Learning survey is a great way to do this! Canvas Commons has an example survey that you can copy to and adapt to your course, or if you see advantages to an anonymous survey, you can request a mid-semester check-in Google survey of your own by writing 
    • Consider mentioning that students who have mental health absences needs can seek support at the Office of the Dean of Students at  Their office can assist and advocate for students.
    • Offer students the opportunity to meet with you one-on-one in person or virtually. Fifteen-minute virtual meetings that students can schedule through Calendly or another app are a great way to offer students the opportunity to connect with you.

MSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) 

Montclair State University’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides free, voluntary, and confidential personal counseling and psychological services for all students. Visit the CAPS webpage to learn about their services including information about how to support a student struggling with their mental health.  The CAPS webpage includes information about how to help students struggling with their mental health.

What To Do If You are Concerned about a Mental Health Emergency

If there is an emergency and/or a student in crisis, contact CAPS  during business hours and tell the receptionist that you have an emergency. The student will be seen as soon as possible. If CAPS is closed, call University Police at 973-655-5222, and they will contact the on-call psychologist. If a student talks or writes about suicide, this should be taken very seriously. If you are not confident that a student in crisis will make the necessary call, you should make the call to CAPS or University Police on their behalf.

Don’t Neglect Your Own Mental Health

  • Montclair State University’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers referrals and consultations for Montclair State University faculty and staff.
  • The Montclair State University Employee Assistance Program provides free support services for all University employees and their families.  Services are confidential and provided off campus, and include short-term counseling and referrals if necessary.
  • Assistance with locating support resources, including substance abuse programs, mental health specialists, and self-help programs.
  • For more information, or to schedule a confidential appointment, please call CONCERN at 800-242-7371 or refer to the CONCERN brochure.

For more information, read the full report from Hanover Research

11.21.22 CK