Scope of the problem
The adjustments students need to make when scaling up in their academic journey often impact their mental and social abilities. Campus life comes with its challenges, especially the pressure to have a definite career path and assume a high level of independence in making life decisions. These students experience problems integrating their social and academic lives together with managing their learning process (Mohamad, 2018). Procrastination and underperforming in college are considered key predictors of depression and anxiety. Mental health-related issues affect academic performance creating the need to find solutions to address the challenge. Therefore, institutions can come up with effective approaches towards ensuring the mental health of their students is secured so as to improve their academic achievement.
Mental health problems affect the energy, concentration, and determination of learners toward their academics which hinders performance. The reported cases of mental illness have increased over the past decade among students, and some often consider the symptoms normal. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) noted that one out of four students in the United States experiences a diagnosable mental illness. The common causes of mental problems among students include a lot of pressure from parents, exam stress, and the urge to get good grades throughout the learning process (Mohamad, 2018). The increasing number of students grappling with mental concerns has placed a greater demand on on-campus services, especially the counseling department. Counseling centers have to come up with a waiting list because of the large volume of students seeking these services. Mental health diagnoses have proven that anxiety and depression are the most reported problems, with females having more issues than their male counterparts. There is an increasing number of college students admitting to having attended counseling, taken medication or have been hospitalized for mental health concerns. Mental illness has a strong relation to decreased academic success and degree completion. Depression and anxiety are the most frequently studied mental illnesses in relation to academic success.
Analysis of the proposed solution
Owing to the prevalence of mental health among student populations, there is a need to find solutions to counter the challenge and promote better academic performance. A significant number of campus students turn to their peers first when faced with mental health and emotional challenges (Mohamad, 2018). These students engage in peer to peer programs and off-campus referrals where they obtain psychosocial skills that help them cope with stress. A peer to peer program can help complement existing campus mental health services which increases the ability of an institution to offer mental health care. Therapy is often scary for some students, but peer counseling allows them to confide in their classmates or roommates with whom they feel free to talk about general issues like academic concerns and stress management. It helps break the barrier and supports students who cannot visit the official counseling centers set up by the institution. They learn skills such as self-awareness, where they are taught personal abilities that can help them maneuver stressful situations. Students also learn the art of breaking big problems into smaller ones and staying motivated through their learning process. Sharing experiences that students go through in school and at home will enable them to ease the pressure that can make them depressed. Though, these sessions are more effective when working with a tutor who will help reinforce some points and make corrections when necessary.
Also, learning institutions can conduct mental health promotion and boost their suicide prevention efforts by coming up with departments where faculty members and staff handle student issues. Faculty members have more knowledge and skills in supporting students, which helps them develop the art of countering stress before it affects their mental health (Horris, Maher & Wentworth, 2022). They easily engage students where they gather their thoughts, opinions, and experiences to ensure that the proposed services meet their needs. The staff can conduct surveys and hold focus groups and forums where they discuss concerns that affect the mental health status of their students. The information will enable them to design training programs such as Mental Health First Aid which is considered the first step in helping students to improve their self-awareness and mental health status. Upon implementation, the services can be constantly evaluated based on feedback from students, which improves the appropriateness and acceptability of the service. Necessary adjustments can be made to ensure that students access the best services within the institution. The staff can implement these approaches in classroom settings to ensure that all possible cases, even those are yet to be mentioned are addressed.
Objection of proposed solution
Peer-to-peer programs and off-campus referrals could lack social development especially when peers work with the same people every time. Also, privacy can be an issue because some students may fear opening up on private issues that affect them owing to the risk of being victimized in school. The inability to freely share ones experiences affects the ability to counter risks of depression and anxiety that emanate from stresses experienced at home and in school. Thus, the program is less effective because it just enables students to gain stress coping skills but not solve the actual problem. Besides, when learners tend to be uncomfortable when tutors are around despite their ability to counsel them on complex issues that may not be tackled by their classmates or roommates. Learners end up picking the wrong advice in some instances which eventually causes them more stress and poor academic achievement. They might end up dropping out of school due to lack of the best advice on how to cope with the stress they experience.
Also, the proposed solution on having faculty members conduct surveys and come up with the appropriate programs for students can be less effective. Most of the training provided by learning institutions is optional and often does little to train students in mental health and suicide prevention. The faculty members tend to avoid making the training mandatory because they feel that it can affect students’ ability to freely accept it and obtain benefits associated with the program. Also, most institutions tend to avoid hiring professionals and depend on the knowledge gained by faculty members. For the training to be effective, it has to include Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) approach which is a one hour training that instructs the trainees to identity signs of a suicidal crisis and how to question, persuade and refer someone for help (Horris, Maher & Wentworth, 2022). Those trained under QPR admitted to having increased knowledge and efficacy to deal with suicidal thoughts which come from depression. Faculty members ought to have special training to be able to share the same with learners. There is need to constantly invite qualified trainers to ensure that students access the best training that will help them individually and their peers.
Best solution, how and why to implement, acknowledgement and refutation of arguments against
The best solution to counter mental health problems faced by students in campuses is a mental-health chatbot. A chatbot is a computerized program that is used to simulate human conversations and can make one feel they are engaging in an intelligent conversation. They are mainly used to offer cognitive behavioral therapy in campuses which lead to better academic performance and well-being (Dekker et al., 2022). Research on applications that promote mental health show that users prefer chatbots ad compared to non-conversational approaches. Most users tend to abandon applications that are non-conversational after a week of using them. The case is different for chatbots as the users have exhibited longer focus hours because chatbots have the ability to actively reach out and initiate communication. There is promising improvement in systems to ensure that these chatbots master the natural language to better their communication with users. Chatbots have a proactive follow up whereby they use goals and strategies set by the student to check on their progress (Dekker et al., 2022). A chatbot can give a reminder to learners to reflect on their goals and progress through issuing them with questions and personalised feedback. Some of the questions that chatbots use to evaluate students include: Did I use my time wisely? How do I overcome obstacles faced? The chatbots can easily use cues presented in the user’s answers to suggest the right strategies. This will help them improve planning and combat procrastination which ends up affecting student achievement.
The chatbot approach should be implemented in campuses because of its ability to differentiate between diverse student needs and offer a more personalised intervention. The application offers a wide range of services ranging from goal setting, self-regulated learning and academic performance which makes it a multi-purpose intervention. For instance, some students may need guidance on time management, avoiding procrastination or how to formulate and achieve goals (Dekker et al., 2022). The chatbot gives substantial feedback to learners like suggestions on a to-do list when learning or planning and avoiding distractions when it comes to procrastination. Also, chatbots are effective because they offer surveys on anxiety and depression which are the main mental health issues affecting learners. Students who score high on these surveys will advise them to visit the counselling center and take the online cognitive behavioral therapy sessions via chatbot. They are able to consult with students at the right time, especially during stress peak times such as periods before exams. The chatbot will check in with these learners and offer them personalised coaching to help lower their stress levels.
People argue that chatbots have limited responses which mean that they are not able to answer multi-part questions or those that require decisions. It is crucial for the student to be the final decision maker as compared to chatbots making decisions for them because it will make them more responsible towards attaining them. They offer viable suggestions that one can use to make the right decisions (Dekker et al., 2022). Also, people claim that chatbots are poor in memory as they do not store information on past conversations. This is actually advantageous because it acts as a privacy plug because once an issue is solved the conversations disappear. It is better than the physical connections where people remember the issues shared in counseling sessions and may stigmatize an individual for a prolonged period of time.
Dekker, I., De Jong, E. M., Schippers, M. C., De Bruijn-Smolders, M., Alexiou, A., & Giesbers, B. (2020). Optimizing students’ mental health and academic performance: AI-enhanced life crafting. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 1063.
Harris, B. R., Maher, B. M., & Wentworth, L. (2022). Optimizing Efforts to Promote Mental Health on College and University Campuses: Recommendations to Facilitate Usage of Services, Resources, and Supports. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 49(2), 252-258.
Mohamad, M. H. (2018). The Relationship Between Mental Health, Stress And Academic. Performance Among College Student, 562-572.