29 avril 2024 Blogs

Four ways libraries can improve student outcomes with mental health support

Stress, anxiety and depression work against student success, but campus libraries can play a key role in easing these burdens

Mental health challenges such as stress, anxiety, depression and burnout, can significantly impede students' academic performance and degree progression. Recognizing and addressing the interconnectedness of mental health and academic success is essential for fostering a supportive learning environment where students can thrive both academically and emotionally.

Fortunately, that’s where campus libraries can help. Many academic libraries are implementing mental health outreach programs at their universities. At the 2023 Charleston Conference, a panel of librarians offered ideas for steps libraries can take to support student mental health and wellness. The session Empowering minds: libraries leading the charge in student mental health yielded four stand-out ideas for how libraries can make a positive impact on student mental health.

Read on to learn how to:

Organize wellness programs

Libraries can actively engage with students by hosting events focused on mental health. Workshops, seminars, and discussion groups provide platforms for students to share experiences, learn coping strategies and connect with peers facing similar challenges.

Events featuring guest speakers, panel discussions and wellness activities aimed at promoting mental health awareness and resilience can be coordinated by tapping campus expertise – staff counsellors, dieticians, athletic trainers, faculty art professors and student peer groups. By integrating mental health initiatives into their programming calendars, libraries demonstrate their commitment to supporting the holistic development of students.

Create safe spaces

Academic libraries serve as sanctuaries amidst the chaos of college life. By cultivating and transforming physical spaces where students feel comfortable and at ease, libraries play a pivotal role in fostering mental well-being. Some examples:

    • The library at William Paterson University created a “Leisure Lounge” that invites students to read for pleasure and serves as a reminder that reading doesn’t have to be a chore.
    • Western Michigan University incorporates pet therapy sessions at the library before exam periods, offering students an opportunity to alleviate stress and enhance their well-being through interaction with therapy animals.
    • Many libraries are now offering “brain breaks” during stressful study sessions with collections of puzzles, Legos and games.

Designating certain areas as “safe spaces” aimed at supporting mental health takes the library’s role even further. These zones may feature resources on coping mechanisms, relaxation techniques, and information that directs students to available mental health services both on and off-campus.

Normalize mental health discussions

Libraries possess a unique platform to advocate for mental health awareness. By collaborating with campus organizations, faculty and administrators, libraries can amplify the conversation surrounding mental health and advocate for the implementation of policies and initiatives that prioritize student well-being.

Providing students with books and other resources pertaining to mental health helps further destigmatize mental health struggles, encourages students to seek help when needed, and gives them the information they need to help those around them do the same. This ultimately contributes to a culture of greater compassion, empathy, and understanding toward mental health and fosters a healthier campus culture.

Put bibliotherapy to work

Bibliotherapy, the therapeutic use of reading material, is a perfect fit for libraries. Making collections of ebooks available and highlighting them via a LibGuide posted prominently on a library’s website makes it easy for those in need to find resources. The library is an essential curator of resources from credible sources, including peer-reviewed and scholarly literature, as well as popular and non-traditional resources that students can relate to and easily understand.

To make it easier for librarians to curate a comprehensive collection, ProQuest, part of Clarivate, has created the Mental Health & Wellbeing Ebook Subscription, a comprehensive collection of multidisciplinary ebooks designed to support the latest psychology and counselling research needs while also promoting student mental wellbeing and self-care skills. Alternatively, libraries can select individual titles from the Mental Health Title-by-Title Ebook Collection, our specially curated collection of high-demand ebooks available on Rialto, OASIS and LibCentral or contact us for the title list.

Libraries play a vital role in supporting student mental health

With dedication, collaboration and a commitment to inclusivity, libraries can nurture positive well-being among their communities. Libraries play a crucial role in supporting student mental health, which correlates with improved academic performance, higher student retention rates and increased graduation rates. When students feel supported mentally and emotionally, they are better equipped to manage stress, maintain focus and ultimately excel academically. This holistic approach to student wellbeing fosters academic success.

For more ideas to support mental health & wellbeing in your library

Support Mental Health with the Mental Health & Wellbeing Ebook Subscription. Learn more and request a title list.