Five Ways Your Institution’s Library Can Support Mental Health

4 min read

| By Gale Staff |

Mental health concerns spiked throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and college campuses are particularly affected by this alarming trend. In fact, one study found that during the 20-21 academic year, nearly two-thirds of all university students suffered from at least one mental health concern.

University staff can help by taking proactive measures. Notably, academic librarians can support struggling college students by introducing them to accurate mental health information and creating a safe space on campus. Consider what resources your institutional library currently has to offer, and make sure to let students know how and where to access help.

Minimize Stigma by Sticking to the Facts

Mental health issues are prevalent, and there’s no reason for college students to feel shame or to try to hide their struggles. Ensuring that students have access to accurate, unbiased information is critical to combating stigma and prejudice. Help build awareness on your campus with our curated Mental Health Collection in Gale eBooks.

The titles housed in Gale eBooks will supplement any mental-health-related research, whether for your students or faculty members. Because these books are offered through the eBook platform, users can access the information from any device, enabling students to keep their queries private. Plus, Gale’s collections integrate extensive translation options, making these important resources available to international and ESL students. With access to reliable information and guidance, students can better understand and pursue treatment for their mental health.

Develop Stress-Reduction Strategies

Academic courses can be demanding, especially around mid-terms and finals. The library can function as a stress-free space for students struggling to manage academic pressure. Librarians can invite other professionals on campus (tutors, wellness center staff, nurses, and financial aid counselors) to host workshops. Topics can include stress reduction tips or time management tips. Campus libraries can also collaborate with the student life office to develop stress-free activities during exam weeks. Perhaps the library could host a yoga class or some kind of relaxation station.

Facilitate Peer Counseling

Oftentimes, students don’t immediately need one-on-one clinical counseling, but rather a helpful conversation with a peer can provide some comfort and solutions. Data confirms that most students in distress will reach out to a peer before they connect with a professional. Structured peer counseling can play a part in your overall campus response to mental health. For example, students who may have lost a loved one during the pandemic might benefit from speaking with a fellow student who has also worked through grief. Peer counseling can be effective for homesickness or academic stress too. The college library can help facilitate or simply provide a safe space to host peer counseling sessions. Quiet study rooms can be used to maximize privacy.

Make Your Students Smile

Take a moment to consider the display cases or bulletin boards inside your library. How might you leverage these resources to make your students smile? Perhaps one display can feature guilty-pleasure reads for students who need a break from academic rigor while a bulletin board could feature silly facts or corny jokes. Print free bookmarks decorated with positive affirmations for students to take on their way out. If you’re not feeling particularly creative, invite your student workers into the conversation. As a team, you can make the library an inviting, safe place for all members on campus.

Don’t Neglect Your Own Self-Care

University workers, especially those who work directly with students, can suffer from compassion fatigue. Campus librarians and their staff can certainly experience burnout, so carve out some time for self-care every day. Find time to make a cup of coffee or call an old friend. Take a moment to create and maintain a list of free campus and community mental health resources that you and your staff can easily use as a reference for patrons in need. Finally, make sure you feel prepared to respond during a mental health crisis. Ask your college counseling center if they can facilitate training for your team, so everyone knows what to do.

College student needs are evolving and campus professionals are adapting. Librarians can play a key role in responding to growing student mental health concerns, whether through eBooks, workshops, or simply by providing a welcoming, safe environment for their patrons.

Check out what other campus libraries are doing to support student mental health and consider tips for how staff can best respond to students seeking support.

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