Mental health nurses have become a vital part of student healthcare in institutions across the country. They form part of a significant number of professionals who are trained to deal with mental health and psychiatric issues and have been instrumental in providing care to people of all age groups.
According to a report by Mental Health America, more than one in ten young people is experiencing depression that affects how they function in school, at work, and even at home. While this may be due in part to the stress that young people experienced due to the pandemic, there is reason for concern and experts say that traditional counseling methods for young people are no longer sufficient to deal with the problem.
Some of the reasons for this are positive; more young people are now aware of what constitutes poor mental health, and they can get diagnosed because they have better access to services. However, because populations have grown dramatically in the last few decades, traditional methods of dealing with mental health problems no longer suffice, and it has opened up opportunities for mental health nurses in settings like colleges and universities.
For anyone who wants to pursue a career in mental health nursing but doesn’t want to work in a hospital or clinic, schools and universities provide a dynamic alternative. There are several courses one can undertake to qualify as a university mental health nurse; such as a post-master’s NP certificate from a reputable institution, like the program offered at Wilkes University. This is a course for registered nurses who have earned a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing and want to learn a new nursing specialty.
There are several types of certificate programs that students can pursue at Wilkes University, including family-focused primary care, adult-gerontology care, and mental health practice. Those who opt to specialize in mental health cover topics like advanced pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology, diagnostic reasoning, and health perspectives for different populations. They also learn advanced health assessment.
By the time they complete the course, students can conduct comprehensive mental health assessments and provide psychotherapy assessments. They also know how to prescribe and monitor medications, and they can treat complex mental disorders as well as addiction and its resulting problems.
Anyone who wants to work as a college or university mental health professional must familiarize themselves with the things that they can do to help reduce stress among students. It makes their programs easier because they will not be encountering these issues for the first time.
What can nurses do to improve college mental health?
Mental health among young people, especially university students, is a sensitive topic. For many, this is the first time they are away from home and have to depend on their smarts for survival.
They do not have parents to tell them the right thing to do, and yet they are making decisions every day that could potentially have huge impacts on their later lives. Many also suffer loneliness and have a hard time making friends. Some students confess that they don’t feel like they fit in and would like to be more popular with their peers.
Mental health nurses must be sensitive to these issues as tackling them helps them get to the root of many of the problems that students experience. Below are some of the things that they can do to help college students.
Learn how to provide counseling to students with a variety of issues
This is a core part of the duties of mental health nurses, and if they work within a college or university they must learn to identify different problems and create approaches to deal with them.
Some students, for example, may need a little hand-holding because they feel lost among such a big crowd. They are in a student population of thousands and feel a little overwhelmed. Some students are unable to cope with the fact that they have to self-supervise, taking care of meals, laundry, money, and even personal grooming.
The mental health nurse has to come up with different ways to counsel all these categories of students.
After identifying the source of the distress, they need to decide on the best course of action so that they can assist immediately. This way, students can focus on their studies rather than worry about their mental health.
Identifying stressors among students
Stressors vary among students, and the mental health nurse needs to identify them if they are going to provide solutions. For some, the stressor may be being away from home and the loving care and guidance that parents provide.
For others, it may be that they find themselves in the wrong sort of company, engaging in activities that don’t contribute to school success. Others may find themselves in trouble because they are overwhelmed by the scope of their studies.
If the nurse understands the different stressors, then they can tailor sessions so that every student gets the help that they need.
A lot is discussed about self-care among working professionals, but it’s not often mentioned in connection with college students.
When young people get into a university, many are surprised by the workload and the fact that it is up to them to decide what to do and when. Some end up overworked; especially for those taking complex courses like medicine and law, they may find the burden overwhelming.
Self-care is one way to deal with some of the stress that comes with college learning. It involves getting enough healthy food to eat, enough hours of sleep, and some form of exercise. Learners should also plan time to relax using practices like meditation, yoga, or whatever they feel works best for them.
For many college students, getting a balanced diet can be quite a challenge, but it can be done. Staying hydrated and eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and nuts goes a long way in supplementing their college diet.
Having a strict sleep timetable also helps, rather than staying up late night after night. Successful college students understand that sleep is vital if they are to concentrate on their classes and avoid stress and anxiety.
Mental health nurses also talk to students about the value of exercise and how they can use it to relax and stay healthy.
Creating supportive environments
Supportive environments are crucial for all of us, not just college students. They help us thrive, and when we need help we can get it from those around us.
Because college students are suddenly thrust into different surroundings, they sometimes have problems finding the support that they need. It is the job of the mental health nurse to help such learners by guiding them to resources that they can use, including student groups and mentors.
They can teach them how to reach out for help when they need it – and how to help others who may be struggling.
Mental health nurses also remind students that their biggest supporters – their family and friends – are back home and that they should keep in touch. When they feel lonely or overwhelmed, talking to a family member or an old friend often helps put things in perspective and can help students cope.
Nurses help students cope with stigma
University students come from all sorts of different backgrounds, and some of them may feel stigmatized because of who they are, their culture, or even their country of origin.
It is the job of the mental health nurse to help such students understand what stigma is, what drives it, and how best they can cope.
They discuss how differences make them unique and how they can contribute by demonstrating to others that perceptions may not necessarily match reality.
The nurse teaches coping strategies that they can use when they’re faced with stigma. The nurse also helps students understand who they are, where they are coming from, and why they are not very different from everyone else.
Empowerment is a powerful tool for young adults. It helps them appreciate themselves and their abilities and internalize their self-worth as individuals.
The student health nurse helps learners understand the value of empowerment and how they can use it to improve their lives. They teach them to speak up for themselves and make sure that they are represented and have a voice.
Collaboration with college staff
A lot of the problems that students confront every day can be alleviated by closer collaboration with college staff. Most universities have departments where students can get help when they need it.
If a student is struggling with a certain module in their course, for example, it may cause them anxiety and can affect their performance. The nurse talks to them about liaising with instructors for help and tips to gain further understanding of their courses.
If the student has fallen behind in some units or in a project or thesis, they may feel discouraged, anxious, and stressed. The mental health nurse helps them with ideas to catch up and complete their program.
Letting students know that they are available to help
Universities are big places, and it isn’t unusual to find large numbers of students who are not aware of resources that have been set up to help them with whatever issues they may be facing.
The mental health nurse does what she can to educate as many students as possible about her office and her mandate. She lets them know the range of services they can fall back on whenever they need support. She also lets them know that if they notice others who may need her help, they should gently guide them toward available mental health services.
Directing students to resources
A lot of college resources are underutilized because students have no idea that they exist or are not motivated to use them. The nurse can compile a list of all available services that she can share with students who come to see her.
Resources vary from college to college, but whatever they are all put in place to provide student support. If they are utilized properly, they can help many students avoid stress and anxiety – or deal with it if it happens.
Work with faculty to discover students who may be struggling
The nurse should have an open-door policy so that faculty and other staff can tell her if they notice students who may be struggling.
Faculty members and supervisors have a lot of contact with learners, and they can often tell when a student is having a hard time.
They may stop attending classes, or their performance may drop. If this happens, any faculty member should be able to let the nurse know that there is a student who may need help.
Helping the faculty so that it can help students
Informed teachers are better teachers, and it is important for college psychiatric nurses to meet with faculty from time to time and teach them about student mental health and what they can do to promote it.
Maintaining such an open-door policy reduces the risk of learners falling through the cracks, and students can get help faster.
When faculty know the signs to look for, they can provide interventions when they are needed either by meeting with the student to understand what they are struggling with or by referring them to the nurse’s office.
Instructors and student mental health professionals ought to meet regularly to develop and review a uniform strategy for issues that commonly afflict students. If they all work from the same page, it becomes easier to identify recurrent mental health problems.
A valuable role
Universities across America now understand the value of having mental health nurses available to the student population at all times. These professionals are highly trained and bring expertise that ordinary counselors may lack. There is every indication that as university enrolment increases in America, the employment prospects for those who choose this specialty will continue to grow.