Teaching Tuesdays: Supporting Student Mental Health during the Pandemic


The P3 Collaboratory is pleased to continue “Teaching Tuesdays,” our ongoing series on pedagogy in higher ed and on the RU-N campus. Today’s entry was developed in collaboration with Dr. Anice Thomas, Rutgers-Newark's Executive Director of Student Health & Wellness & Director of the Counseling Center.



Even as we collectively experience the current pandemic, ongoing racial injustice, and social upheaval, our individual experiences of those phenomena differ. While we have an opportunity here to support the learning and growth of a diverse population of students, in order to do so effectively we must approach our work from a trauma-informed and open-hearted perspective.


Offering a trauma-informed space for students includes moving away from the attitude that there is something “wrong” with struggling students and appreciating that there are life experiences, hardships or injuries, or deep-rooted pain that manifest as barriers to students’ learning or engagement. Without turning your class into a therapy space, you can and should respectfully and compassionately share your understanding that students may be suffering and that HELP IS AVAILABLE.


When we encourage discussion about mental health, or even simply offer resources, we validate the experiences of our students and create an accepting environment where our students may be more likely to seek the help they need. This can be done by including in your syllabus a destigmatizing statement or directory of available mental health resources, or by including a slide on campus services at the end of your class lectures.


SAMPLE SYLLABUS STATEMENT

Accomodation & Support Statement
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Download PDF • 144KB

SAMPLE SLIDE OF CAMPUS RESOURCES

MH Resources To Support Students for Fac
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Download • 49KB

It is particularly important for faculty to understand the many structural challenges to academic performance that students face right now. Even the most highly motivated students may not be able to participate in their coursework in typical ways, such as giving professors undivided visual attention for the full duration of a class period. If offering your course asynchronously or providing asynchronous options for your students isn’t possible, faculty should be flexible and empathetic with regards to the enormous variety in home learning environments. Many home environments create anxiety, stress, and fear for learners. Students may lack a suitable work space or stable internet, may be working double duty as caregivers, or they may frequently shift between temporary housing situations. As an instructor, consider what can you do to ease the tension of these burdens for your students. For example, allowing students to keep their cameras off during synchronous activities is a simple gesture that serves many goals: It helps students maintain their privacy and offers them a modicum of control during a chaotic time. It also recognizes that some of the challenges to remote learning are out of students’ hands and that many of our accepted norms can adjust without diluting the quality of instruction.


Instructors can proactively create a virtual “safe space” for their students in other ways. Starting or ending classes with a “mindful moment” where you encourage your students to take a few deep breaths or repeat a positive affirmation can powerfully demonstrate to students that you care about their well-being and are aware of how this current environment is affecting us all. Faculty should also clearly communicate to their students how to contact them if their coursework is impacted by mental or emotional health issues, and work to destigmatize the process of asking for help.


While our campus is primarily functioning in a remote capacity, our student support services have been expanded to better meet the needs of our students. Let your students know that the following confidential offices offer services to students at NO COST.


The Counseling Center, open to all enrolled Rutgers-Newark students, offers:

  • Clinical services: We offer virtual individual and group therapies, psychiatric assessment and medication management, and alcohol & drug assistance with licensed providers. You can set up an appointment by calling 973-353-5805 or counseling@newark.rutgers.edu

  • Online Self-Help: Visit your myRutgers Dashboard https://my.rutgers.edu/ and click the widget "Sanvello: Wellness @ RUN"

  • The Daily Drop: Virtual drop-in appointments with a mental health clinician. Email counseling@newark.rutgers.edu to get connected.

  • Mindful Mondays: Learn coping skills through a guided meditation with Dr. Vasu Dixit each Monday from 4pm-5pm. Join via phone: 646-558-8656 (Meeting id: 99895501606) or via Zoom: https://tinyurl.com/y2wsery8

  • After-hours support: A clinician is available every evening and through the weekend. When you need support, we are here. Call 973-353-5805 and you will be connected to the Counselor-on-Call.


The Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance (VPVA), open to all enrolled Rutgers-Newark students, offers resources and support for students who have been directly affected by interpersonal violence:

  • Clinical Services: Virtual individual therapy sessions with a trauma-informed mental health clinician. You can set up an appointment by calling 973-353-1918 or run.vpva@rutgers.edu

  • WeChat Helpline: A text-based, confidential helpline connecting students with Peer Advocates. Text 973-339-0734

  • Virtual consultation: Receive resources and information from a VPVA staff member. Call 973-353-1918 or email run.vpva@rutgers.edu


However, if your student is IN CRISIS and you are not sure how to help, refer them to the Campus Awareness Response and Education (CARE) Team. CARE works with students in crisis to develop a plan of support plan and will connect them to the right resources. Connect with the CARE Team by using the following link: tinyurl.com/RUNCARE. To learn more, visit us here or email careteam@rutgers.edu.


We also know that food insecurity is impacting many of our community members. The pantryRUN food pantry provides free, healthy groceries to any student or staff who have trouble affording a healthy diet. We are located in Room 226 of the Paul Robeson Campus Center and are open to the Rutgers-Newark community. Spring hours are Mondays 1:00pm – 4:00pm, Wednesdays 2:00pm – 4:00pm, and Fridays from 10:00am – 3:00pm. If you need access to nutritious food, stop by during our open hours.


Additional Resources and References:


Author Bio:

Dr. Anice Thomas is the Executive Director of Student Health & Wellness and Director of the Counseling Center at Rutgers University-Newark. Dr. Thomas completed her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with specialization in Multicultural Community Clinical Psychology. She earned her undergraduate degree from Rutgers College and her doctorate from The California School of Professional Psychology.

Brought to you by the P3 Collaboratory for Pedagogy, Professional Development, and Publicly-Engaged Scholarship at Rutgers University-Newark

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The P3 Collaboratory is pleased to continue “Teaching Tuesdays,” our ongoing series on pedagogy in higher ed and on the RU-N campus.