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04/25/2018

Coping with the Rise in Student Mental Health Incidents

By Bill Bull, VP for Health, Safety, and Security

Colleges and universities across the country are experiencing a rise in student mental health issues. Sadly, we are beginning to see evidence of this trend in study abroad programs. This observation led CIEE to implement a mental health training program for our onsite staff around the world. ​
 
In 2015, CIEE implemented new technology that permits real-time incident reporting by our local staff around the world on everything from student hospitalizations to scraped knees. Our incident database currently houses data on recorded major and minor health and safety incidents that have occurred over the past two years.
 
Analysis of this comprehensive data set has yielded many insights that can be translated into actions that enhance the safety of students abroad. One emerging risk the data revealed is a steady rise in student mental health incidents globally. 

Help Identifying and Supporting “At-Risk” Students

For the pilot program, we partnered with Kognito, a health simulation company, to offer an online mental health training course. Participants interacted with virtual students or avatars to learn how to identify “at-risk” students and how to direct struggling students to further support services.

We recognize that international educators may find these conversations difficult and that staff are typically neither medical doctors nor psychologists. As part of the training, staff were able to practice multiple scenarios and different responses to determine the best methods for speaking with students experiencing or approaching mental health crises.

Pilot Results and Next Steps

The results of the pilot program were extremely promising, with 100 percent of participants reporting in the post-course surveys that the training program made them feel more comfortable identifying and speaking with students in crisis.    

CIEE is now rolling out the program to all student-facing staff globally so they are better equipped to respond quickly and effectively to students with mental health needs.