The holiday season is supposed to include festivities with friends and family. However, this year, the COVID-19 pandemic has made one of the happiest times of the year one of the most isolating for many college students.
On top of the challenges of remote learning and social distancing, this winter break is likely to surface additional feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. Between travel restrictions and high-risk family members, many students are away from their families during this time — leaving the door open for emotional challenges to creep in. But what if your students are unaware of the support that’s available to them? What if they’re too afraid of being judged to reach out to a counselor?
After all, 40% of students fail to seek help when they struggle with mental health. It’s up to your institution to proactively reach out and offer additional support to foster your students’ well-being.
Here are three ways you can help create a healthy emotional environment for your students — even when they are living off-campus:
1. Proactively Check in With Students
Students need more than just a “how are you doing?” email from their institution during these unprecedented times. Communication is not a one-size-fits-all solution because students require authentic and empathetic support that meets their individual needs.
It is up to colleges and universities to ask students the right questions at the right time. Chatbot technology makes it possible to gain visibility into how they are doing. For example, texting students with various check-in campaigns enables you to ask questions like, “Which of these emojis best describes how you feel about winter break right now?” This enables you to gauge your students’ well-being in an approachable and non-invasive way, so you can open a more personalized dialogue and take appropriate action if you need to.
2. Keep Students Engaged and on Track
While students are not on campus, it’s essential to make them feel that they are still a part of the school’s community. Campus-minded digital communication is one of the key components to keeping students involved and motivated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Texting students with notes about fun activities and academic reminders will foster meaningful relationships with them. The results of these messages last far beyond the holiday season. For example, California State University Channel Islands reached out to students for song suggestions to add to an official Spotify playlist that they shared with their entire community. Even simple, light-hearted engagement like this can go a long way toward helping students feel included in something bigger than themselves.
3. Offer Health and Wellness Resources
Forward-thinking institutions deliver on their students’ greatest needs by using AI chatbot technology to analyze conversation data. Understanding this data enables administrators to react to their students’ most common problems by leading them to the right resources to get the help they need.
When students reach out to their school’s chatbot, or when they provide a response to a chatbot conversation that includes sensitive information about their well-being, administrators can be alerted and intervene to provide assistance to students who need it.
Remember, these are just a few ways to engage students during the course of winter break, and beyond. Many colleges and universities are getting creative with their chatbots and finding new ways to support their students’ mental health, as well.
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