In one of my recent courses, a first-year student made comments about how many spaces on campus were dehumanizing, with people walking around “like robots.”

She spoke about how her first quarter in college brought significant mental health challenges related to sleep deprivation, isolation and course withdrawals. She seriously considered dropping out.

This same student also shared that our classroom was the first place she felt she could call her own on campus — a space where she could focus on learning rather than grades, explore issues relevant to her world and have authentic human conversations about life. She credited the course with rekindling her passion for learning, fostering her confidence and helping her develop meaningful connections.

Her story offers a salient example of how campuses can not only create toxic breeding grounds for mental health struggles but also foster spaces where students thrive.

Research and a plethora of anecdotal evidence tell us that campuses do far too much of the former and not enough of the latter. If this is so, how can colleges turn the tide to become more a part of the solution than we are a part of the problem?

College students continuously deal with a wide range of stressors, from racial discrimination to immense financial insecurity. It can take a toll on their well-being, yet campuses often fail to help students navigate these challenges.

In fact, many colleges actively exacerbate them in their pursuit of fame, wealth and prestige. These unhealthy obsessions often compromise valuable benefits such as deep connections, community, spirituality and health.

It is not surprising that students are experiencing a wide range of mental health challenges, such as paralyzing stress, anxiety and depression. In 2021-22, the national Healthy Minds Survey found that college students’ anxiety and depression were at historic levels, with 37 percent reporting some anxiety and 44 percent experiencing some depression in the two weeks prior to the survey. Moreover, approximately 83 percent reported that emotional or mental difficulties had impaired their academic performance at some time during the month prior to taking the survey.

Instead, campuses should provide mental health services that are culturally responsive, via professionals who understand diverse student backgrounds and experiences. Offering counseling services, support groups and outreach programs designed for diverse communities can help students feel understood and supported.

However, students have to know about these services and be able to easily access them.

This requires campuses to provide clear and accessible support, rather than leaving it up to students to find their own way through their institutions’ ever-increasingly complex bureaucracies.

Read the full article about college mental health crisis by Samuel Museus at The Hechinger Report.