Quadcast: College Junior and Mental Health Advocate Sam Gerry on Student Suicidality
This episode of the Quadcast marks the end of our student advocacy series co-hosted by MCI and Carson Domey, a first-year student at the University of Texas at Austin and longtime youth mental health advocate. Domey talks with Sam Gerry, a junior at Bates College who has spent the last several years channeling his own trials with depression and suicidality into a range of mental health initiatives.
The founder of a charity kickball tournament supporting suicide prevention called Kick it for a Cause, Inc., Gerry has also assisted research into the impact of teen social media use and sleep habits on suicidality; how multilingual people navigate the mental health system; and the sources of stress for high schoolers in Maine. On the Quadcast, he shares how these personal and professional experiences with mental health have informed his belief in the need for preventative care on college campuses.
Mental and Behavioral Health
In an effort to expand its focus on the wellbeing of high school and college students, the Ruderman Family Foundation is calling for proposals for research and white papers on youth mental health. “One of our goals,” executive director Shira Ruderman writes, “is to disseminate new, relevant data, research, and emerging knowledge that strengthens policies and practices in the field.” Interested parties should use the following link to submit a proposal or share it with other researchers, practitioners and policy makers: https://whitepapers.rudermanfoundation.org/
For The Hechinger Report, University of Maine provost John Volin shares how his school has approached declining enrollment, specifically in a state where the number of high school graduates has been steadily decreasing. Although managing recruitment and retention remains a challenge, making tuition affordable and prioritizing student wellness have let UMaine keep enrollment in check. Schools should consider investing in “transformative education” practices, Volin suggests, that improve outcomes by engaging students and increasing their sense of belonging.
On the hunt for new ways to tackle the student mental health crisis, some colleges and universities have started offering wellness days as an opportunity for students to take a break and take care of themselves. GBH questions the efficacy of these days off, however, finding that students often end up using these days to catch up on assignments. According to University of Virginia sociology professor Josipa Roska, wellness days are an appealing “quick-fix,” but they fail to solve the root of student exhaustion and burnout and may even negatively impact academic progress.
NPR explores the continuing financial inaccessibility of mental health care and the sacrifices some families have to make in order to get loved ones the services they need.
The Wall Street Journal highlights the increasing trend of schools contracting third-party services to expand access to mental health support for students and lighten the burden for on-campus counselors.
WSJ also discusses recent guidance from the U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, warning workers about the mentally and physically harmful effects of a toxic workplace, which can involve long hours and low wages.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
The Chronicle covers a new report assembled by several higher education leaders, contending that educational excellence does not require ‘weeding out’ lower performing students but rather offering opportunities for every student to succeed. Shifting away from traditional educational values that prioritize selectivity over equity, these experts argue schools have an obligation to support those who come to college with “fewer educational, social, or financial resources.”
With the Supreme Court set to hear two cases regarding race-conscious college admissions policies next week, a Washington Post-Schar School poll breaks down American attitudes on the matter. Around six in ten Americans evidently believe college admission decisions should not take race into account, but six in ten also think positively of “programs designed to increase racial diversity of college students.”
An op-ed in The Michigan Daily suggests that mental health stigma for students has lessened in some ways but that taking real action to address these challenges, including by taking time off, is still taboo. “Inaction,” the author writes, “is a silent killer.”
Yale Daily News reports a largely positive response to Yale Community College Care—the program unfurled in spring 2021 to allow students to access counseling in their residential communities—despite ongoing concerns that it can’t meet the extent of student need.
In The Daily Northwestern, a student formerly suspended for “bad grades” discusses the shame she felt for being dismissed and encourages students to be more open with one another about their mental health.
For The Daily Barometer, the newspaper of Oregon State University, one student explores the challenges of accessing OSU’s counseling services and argues that students should be able to receive support while studying abroad.
The Breeze, the student newspaper for James Madison University, accounts how the extent of mental health problems on campus inspired a group of students to re-introduce a mental health advocacy club, Active Minds, to campus.
Sexual Assault and Title IX
The New York Times highlights a “potential landmark Title IX case” unfolding in Hawaii, where female student athletes at the state’s largest public school are alleging “widespread and systemic sex discrimination.” The reason it, unlike most Title IX cases, has not been settled and is going to trial is that the plaintiffs are accusing school officials of not only discrimination but retaliating against those who raised their concerns.
According to Inside Higher Ed, there has historically been a lack of support on college campuses for students struggling with substance use disorders. As substance misuse becomes increasingly prevalent, however, more schools are establishing CRCs, or collegiate recovery programs or communities, to offer students at any recovery stage “robust resources” for combating substance use problems.
As a new assistant professor at Rollins College, Jana Mathews charted an unconventional path to get to know her students by deciding to join a sorority. Now she’s the author of a new book about Greek Life, exploring not only its toxic elements but its capacity for forging close same-sex relationships. Learn more about her thoughts on whether Greek Life should stay or go in her Q&A with The Chronicle.
Undergraduate enrollment is still declining but not to the same degree as it has been in recent years, NPR reports. Preliminary data suggests that college enrollment fell by 1.1% between fall 2021 and 2022, as experts cite the pandemic and financial concerns related to tuition cost and student debt as reasons for the continuing slump. Meanwhile, The Chronicle adds that the number of doctorate degrees awarded in 2021 dropped by 5.4%—the most severe decline in the 65-year-long history of the Survey of Earned Doctorates.
New research out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign concludes that regional public colleges can have a critical impact on the educational and economic outcomes of those who live nearby. In a Q&A with The Chronicle, one of the study’s researchers, Russell Weinstein, discusses the importance of these institutions—many of which struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic—for increasing access to higher education.
The lawsuits attempting to block President Biden’s student debt relief plan aren’t deterring the program’s implementation, according to The Washington Post. Last week, the plan originally seemed out of the woods after a district judge dismissed one lawsuit brought by six Republican-led states. But the next day, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit granted the suit an administrative stay—in other words, put it on pause.
Inside Higher Ed explores a recent report from the College Board, revealing that college tuition rates increased for the 2022-23 school year at a historically low rate—for the third year in a row. In fact, taking inflation into account, tuition for this year actually decreased compared to last. Experts refer to state regulations and the particular need to attract and retain students as reasons that schools aren’t increasing tuition to a greater degree.
The Chronicle discusses a recent report revealing that around one in three community college students was food-insecure during the pandemic, while one in seven was housing-insecure. The report, published by the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, urges colleges to take action steps to support these students who are living without enough food or adequate housing.