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How to Get More Students to Seek Help for Mental Health

By collegemktgrp | January 6, 2020 | Universities

In the past, talking about mental health was a taboo subject. If you struggled with anxiety, depression, or stress, you were expected to just deal with it.

Now, our mental health is being embraced as part of our overall physical health, and is being treated with the same amount of consideration and care.

That still doesn’t mean that dealing with mental health is necessarily as easy as going to the doctor for a checkup. There are still reservations in society about admitting when we’re struggling with our mental health, and that attitude extends to our nation’s college campuses.

College students are under a lot of pressure to take on heavy course loads, get top grades, make all new friends, and live alone for the first time. On top of this, many students are juggling full- or part-time jobs, struggling with family or health issues, and more.

College life can be a recipe for mental health challenges. 25% of college students today have a diagnosable mental illness, and 40% of them don’t seek help.

Causes of Mental Health Issues on Campus

The primary causes of mental health issues in college students are not necessarily surprising:

Most Common Mental Illness on College Campuses

Despite the common-place causes, the effects can be serious. Some of the most common mental illnesses and related behaviors found on college campuses are depression, anxiety, eating disorder, bipolar disorder, identity crises and more.

Left unaddressed, mental health complications can cause students to flounder in their schoolwork, fail in personal relationships, lose sleep, and face serious physical health effects.

How to Help Your University’s Students Struggling with Mental Health

As a university, you’re responsible for providing a top-notch education to every enrolled student. Students can’t succeed in their academic career if their wellbeing isn’t being looked after.

You can’t force students to seek help when they need it. But you can make it easier for them by effectively communicating mental health information and services provided on campus.

How to Reach College Students About Mental Health Support

Your university is likely already offering guidance on life skills and self-care, fostering social networking (in real life), and providing services for students struggling with mental health or substance abuse.

The key to increasing student use of such services is good communication.

Digital marketing is one of the best ways to communicate mental health awareness to college students. You can meet your college students where most of them spend most of their time — online.

Read on for 5 tips on how to campus mental health programs can reach students online.

1. Get on the Right Social Media Platforms

The most popular social media apps favored by college students are:

Prioritizing these platforms and reminding students that your school is active on social media (list your handles on printed materials, link to socials from your website, etc.) is the first step to engaging with students where they are.

The next step is to post the right kind of content to get students’ attention and boost engagement. There is one important trait that all four of these platforms share, and that’s the popularity of video.

2. Make the Most of Video

Video is hugely effectively on all four of the social media platforms most popular with today’s college students.

YouTube is a no brainer — it’s a video-based platform. And the medium is increasingly popular on Snapchat and Instagram Stories and Highlights.

On Facebook, video posts get more engagement than any other type of post. More engagement means more comments and shares, which means a wider organic reach of your content.

Besides the fact that they get more audience engagement, videos are highly effective at communicating important information, because they require active viewing. A student will give their full attention to your video about mental health tips, making the information more likely to have an impact.

And you don’t have to make your own videos — you can share existing content in your social media posts, like the following:

8 Second Rule with Video

If you do make your own videos, use the first 8 seconds wisely. Studies have found that the modern internet surfer is very savvy when it comes to knowing what is and isn’t worth their time.

A student is going to judge the worthiness of your video in the first 8 seconds before deciding to either continue watching or scroll on. It’s not that you have to pack everything into those 8 seconds — just make sure the beginning of your video is a clear indication of what the rest of the video is all about.

For example, if you produce a video called “Dealing with Mental Health in College”, you might immediately start with a student saying, “Struggling with mental health this semester? Don’t worry, it’s totally normal. Here are 5 tips on how to cope so you can get back to focusing on what matters.” Don’t waste time on shots of the campus, opening credits, or long-winded introductions.

Another tip for videos is to include captions. Many videos on social media initially play back with the sound off. Captions right from the beginning will clue students in on the content of your video, making it more likely they’ll continue watching (and turn on the sound!)

3. Highlight Normalization of Mental Health

A big concern of many students facing mental health issues is the idea that they’re lesser than their peers for it. They might be worried about being judged or feel shame if they acknowledge that they could use a little help.

To help alleviate these fears, you should always focus on normalizing mental health in your digital marketing materials. In our hypothetical video above, the message communicates that “it’s totally normal” right off the bat.

You can back up these kinds of statements with fact. We opened this article with statistics about mental health on college campuses. When a student sees that in fact, 40% of their peers are in the same boat, they’re more likely to be willing to seek help.

4. Utilize Student Ambassadors

Today’s college students take the word of their peers seriously. They’re much more likely to take stock in the word of a fellow student than a university employee.

To make the most of this fact, your videos, social media posts, and printed materials should feature real students talking about their stories of anxiety, stress, and depression, as well as how they got help from campus services and the positive effects they experienced.

5. Take Advantage of Audience Targeting

One of the perks of modern digital marketing is the ability to find exactly the people you’re looking for online. For a college’s mental health program, identifying students at risk is key.

With automated digital marketing, you can:

  • Track students who visit your online mental health resources and show them ads on other platforms
  • Optimize content and links to get more students to engage and click
  • Promote links to resources on social media based on a student’s online behavior — for example, a Google search for symptoms of depression means they’re more likely to respond to a Facebook ad from your school promoting help with depression.

Improve Your Communications with College Marketing Group

If your school has top-notch mental health services but struggles with the common challenge of too many students not taking advantage of them, you don’t need different programs. You might just need different marketing.

Using the tips above is just the starting point of better communication around mental health on your campus. The next step is getting help from experts at College Marketing Group.

We have decades of experience in helping universities communicate with students. Whether you need help fine-tuning your content, coming up with a new campaign around mental health, finding the right students online, or just don’t know where to start, we can help.

Contact us now to learn more »


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