Retaining students and supporting their mental health doesn’t always have to be a complex task for staff or faculty. An April 2022 National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) report, “How Mental Health is Impacting Student Retention,” points out that “One of the first things administrators need to understand is that they don’t have to be mental health experts to help their students. This type of thinking can cause campus leaders to simply not address the issues they see because they feel powerless.” According to NSLS, one helpful strategy can be the “V-A-R method” of communication, in which you validate (the student’s feelings), appreciate (their courage) and refer (for appropriate help).
Ways to proactively support students’ mental and emotional health while improving rates of success and retention include:
- Taking initiative to connect and engage with students, early and often and in ways that they prefer, so that they feel comfortable if they ever need to reach out for help
- Using data to track red flags and develop intervention strategies
- Helping build a campus community and a sense of belonging
- Gathering feedback from students regularly through polls, surveys and other assessment/evaluation methods
- Offering students opportunities for enriching experiences outside the classroom
- Connecting students with financial resources such as job openings and mentorships
- Supporting each part of the student journey: addressing the unique needs of freshmen versus ongoing students and those about to graduate
By offering support to students in these ways, especially proactively, you can make a real difference with their mental and emotional health as well as increase the odds that they will be successful students retained through graduation.
Read much more on this topic in our new Assisting At-Risk Students: Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being Strategy Guide.