student well-being

Sexual Assault Awareness Month logoApril is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and it has come this year at a time when many U-M instructors are wondering how, in their role as teachers, they can make a difference with this issue on campus. For some, relevant course content provides a perfect occasion for engaging students in discussion about sexual violence and identifying relevant campus resources, initiatives, and policies. But what if you teach in an area where such issues are not relevant to your course topics? How, if you want, can you help promote a safer campus? And how can you be prepared to respond supportively in the event that a student’s learning in your class is negatively affected by an experience of sexual violence? Students often trust teachers as a primary contact when dealing with distress, so no matter your field, it’s useful to be prepared for such encounters.

Recently, student governments in both LSA and the College of Engineering have endorsed language that all faculty can include on their syllabus to provide information about campus policies as well as resources regarding sexual assault and harassment. The students leading these efforts propose that, as easily-accessible documents, syllabi are perfect places to share information such as contact numbers for crisis support services--resources that, by definition, students don't plan to need. They also emphasize the important role faculty can play in drawing attention to safety from sexual assault as a Title IX concern, in minimizing stigma against sexual assault survivors, and in demonstrating an institutional commitment to a campus where students can learn free from the threat of sexual violence. Such syllabus statements were advocated for similar reasons in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education blog.

As alternatives to such a policy-focused statement, some U-M teachers choose to include syllabus statements that focus more directly on the potential impacts on student learning of sexual violence. These might emphasize the boundaries of confidentiality, or point students to resources about supporting their friends and classmates who are survivors of sexual violence. Holly Rider-Milkovich, Director of U-M's Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC), recommends instructors include language such as the following on their syllabus or in speaking with students: Read more »

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Michigan Diag during winter

As we move into winter term, with its mix of intense academic demands and challenging weather, it's a good time for instructors to prepare to respond or reach out to students experiencing mental health challenges. Whether they are grappling with anxiety, depression, or other sorts of distress, students' mental heath struggles often become apparent to teachers when they take a toll on their academic work. And students in distress sometimes turn to teachers for help because they see them as their most immediate support network.

As U-M’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) states in their guide for instructors on Helping Students in Distress, "your role can be a positive and crucial one in identifying students who are in distress and assisting them in finding the appropriate resources." 

What should you do if you know or suspect a student is in need of your assistance? Detailed guidance can be found in the CAPS guide above or at the University's Mental Health Resources webpage for faculty and staff. In general they recommend, if a student comes to you, that you listen attentively and without judgment. You can help the student develop an action plan for addressing their main concerns, especially with coursework, but remember that it's not your role or responsibility to provide professional help for students facing mental health challenges. You can support students by referring them to relevant campus resources. Depending on the circumstances, these might include: Read more »

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This afternoon, U-M's Counseling & Psychiatric Services (CAPS) will bring together the campus community in a show of support for students in severe distress. As part of CAPS's "Messages of Hope" suicide prevention project, they are inviting all of us to participate in writing messages that communicate hope and encourage resilience in students experiencing a mental health crisis. CAPS has already gathered hundreds of inspiring student-to-student messages that can be viewed in their Facebook photo album. The goal of "Tile Day" is to collect at least 1,000 new handwritten Messages of Hope to be displayed in the CAPS office.messages of support on colorful sticky notes

As teachers, we are often among the first to see signs that a student is struggling. U-M instructors are lucky to have a range of excellent resources to which they can refer students when they need additional support or mental health services. The CAPS website offers guidance for faculty and staff, including suggestions for reaching out to students you're concerned about to connect them with appropriate campus resources.  

Teachers can play an important role in supporting the mental health and well-being of our students. Today we can focus our energies on giving hope to students in the greatest moment of crisis by participating in this suicide prevention effort. Here are the details for Tile Day:

  • Friday, January 25
  • Drop by 12-5pm
  • CSG Chambers, 3rd Floor of Michigan Union
  • Light refreshments will be served 

You can learn more about the Messages of Hope project on the CAPS website. 
(Photo credit: Kristin Kurzawa)

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