Pastoral Care And Mental Health Issues In Universities is a serious issue to be handled. The student support team has seen a big increase in students with mental health issues and has provided an extensive support in critical and pastoral care across the university. Good mental health services are crucial everywhere. Sometimes it takes a horrific tragedy to spur change and shed light on a problem that has been in existence for long. The recent tragedy of a student name Mason Pendrous who was 19-year-old, was found dead in his resident hall room at the University of Canterbury after his disappearance went unnoticed for four to eight weeks is causing universities to reassess their pastoral care services, though investigations are currently ongoing in this case
Accommodation for student is a lucrative industry – with both universities and private providers offering state-of-the-art facilities, interior designs that are trending and also a fully-furnished luxurious rooms sat high rental costs.
Meanwhile, what about pastoral care? Are student being adequately cared for while living in campus residence halls, or are they just perceived as merely tenants?
Pastoral care and mental health issues
In recent years, many universities have been offering more and effective services for students with mental health challenges, which include counselling, mentoring and even animal therapy. According to The Guardian, “Most universities now have counselling services, alongside mental health and well-being advisers, many of whom are specialised in supporting students through the transition from school to university“. Students’ unions are also available to render assistance in terms of basic life advice, from accommodation support to cooking advice and signposting university facilities.” This is because more and more young people suffer from mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
According to Stuff, “Sustained increase in the number of students reporting mental distress have been noticed by universities, as have high school guidance counsellors, who have struggled with mounting case loads as more students with increasingly acute problems seek for help.
In 2007-08, 37 students reportedly died by suicide which was seen from a provisional figures released by the coroner show. The number increased to 71 in 2018-19. University and polytechnic students as well, the coroner’s office includes anyone at primary, intermediate and secondary schools in the student category”.
As a matter of fact, not all students seek help. There are many students who are unable to identify whether they even have a problem, those who can not come to terms with having a mental problem, those who don’t have the right support system to urge them to visit the course selling centre or see a doctor.
This is where pastoral care in residence halls come into play – if a student is depressed and unable to leave their room, if they’re sleeping too much and missing classes, or even if they’re showing signs of hoarding or obsessive-compulsiveness; all these things could be considered red flags that could save their life later on.
That is the more reason why universities should extend counselling and psychiatric help to residence halls too. Dorm room checks should also be a red flag to look out for – such as alcoholism, drug abuse, signs of depression, hoarding and so on.
The burden of RAs
Resident advisors are responsible for “looking after” students in the reside CE halls in exchange he for accommodation. Most often, they usually come under fire when something happens in the dorms. Usually, they are responsible for ensuring the safety of everyone, keeping to the rules of the dorm and organising social activities.
These RAs are also students themselves, and offering pastoral care to students they’re supposed to be responsible for could be an enormous burden to bear. They may also have their own mental challenges to deal with, as well as their own studies and social activities that is keeping them busy.
It can be overwhelming and strenuous for such young students when they look after several students ts at a time. RAs should undergo a more specialised training in order to be able to identify potential problems with students to help lift the burden and give them direction in being a mentor to students who live in dorms. In addition, the process for hiring RAs should be more stringent I stead of choosing those who “fit the profile”.
What about those who live off-campus?
When a student goes to university, parents are under the impression that the university will keep an eye on their child – or at least notice if he doesn’t show up for class for several weeks in a row. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd, especially in universities that has large student populations. The challenge is even greater for international students and those who live off-campus.
Should students living in off-compus be offered pastoral care? Technically, the university isn’t responsible for these students, it could make all the difference if they have mandatory check-ins or are required to see a counsellor every so often to check if they’re doing alright.
All students are typically advised academically, but as the university experience extends far beyond academics, there should be well-being advisory services or something similar to ensure there’s a support system in place to look out for red flags.
New technologies that arise, such as predictive analytics, could also be indicators to students’ well-being. Since it can be used to “track” student progress, technology can identify when a student’s performance has dropped, which could be a sign that they’re suffering from a mental health issue, or even a debilitating physical health issue.