It’s the end of the school year and college students are preparing for summer break or life post-graduation. Some are looking forward to this time away, while others face new living situations, unhealthy home environments, new jobs, cross-country moves, or other stressful life events, which can heighten stress levels and worsen mental health conditions.
When students leave campus, they often leave behind social support systems, which may include mentors, friends, therapists, and on-campus advocates. It’s not enough to bid them farewell and wish them a happy summer. Administrators, counseling center directors, and other higher education leaders need to prepare students for this transitional time, with the understanding that summer breaks – and time away from campus – can be harmful to students’ mental health.
How Can Colleges Support Student Mental Health When the School Year Ends?
Mental health needs don’t cease to exist at the end of the academic calendar. In some cases, this is when care is needed most. As higher education leaders, athletic directors, counseling center directors, clinicians, and other on-campus staff members prepare for the summer break, now is the time to consider students’ needs.
Here’s what you can do to better support students through summer break and beyond:
Offer year-round mental health resources
This should include online and on-campus resources, such as peer support groups, online screening tools, mental health workshops, counseling and behavioral health services, crisis care, and comprehensive lists of recommended organizations, associations, or providers which can be accessed outside of the calendar year, such as during breaks or summer months. Ideally, these resources are diverse and comprehensive to accommodate a diverse student body.
Conduct routine check-ins
Students may have moved back home, taken on an internship, or started a new job, but they can still be reached by email, phone, or address. Colleges and universities should utilize these methods of communication to stay connected to the student body over breaks, summer, and other times throughout the year. This is, especially, important for students who’ve sought help through the counseling center and need ongoing mental health support. Send them reminders of available services, programs, and tools; give them tips to protect their mental health throughout the year.
Advise parents on the mental health issues facing college students today
Parents and guardians are often emergency contacts – and the first line of support for students. Colleges and universities can inform parents and guardians of the signs and symptoms of mental health problems, share on-campus offerings, and encourage active listening and advocacy.
Extend telemental health service offerings
Some students have secured a therapist who understands them, their condition, and their treatment plan. Rather than pausing their care for the summer, consider extending telemental health hours through the summer so students can maintain ongoing sessions with their preferred providers. If they leave the state, provide them with alternative options, such as local community health centers or therapists in their area.
How Mantra Health’s Care Navigation Team Ensures Continuity of Care
A 2022 College Pulse study found that 20% of students would like their school to expand telecounseling services, 21% want more diversity in their on-campus staff, and 18% want more off-campus wellness programs. Demand may reach its peak in the fall and winter months when students face high-stress events like midterms and finals, but it doesn’t cease to exist in the summer. In fact, many students need more care in this transitional period – and that’s why Mantra Health’s care navigators work directly with counseling centers to assess each patients’ specific needs.
"Continuity of care is essential to ensuring all students are supported and able to choose their ideal plan of action on what steps they would like to pursue in their mental health care journey throughout the break,” says Ashley Jordan, Lead Care Navigator at Mantra Health.
"At Mantra Health, we take the added initiative to ensure that no student feels left behind or abandoned when the school year ends," Jordan explains. "We provide various options, including sponsored care, private pay to continue care, or recommended referrals based on the student’s location, health plan, and identified preferences."
At Mantra Health, we are committed to providing the highest quality care and that doesn’t stop when the academic calendar ends. To learn more about continuity of care and how you can sponsor students’ mental health services through the summer, check out our approach to telemental health.