The new College Student Fall 2020 Mental Health Report reveals that 93 percent of U.S. students surveyed in September 2020 agree or strongly agree their mental health is an important component of their overall health and wellbeing, with 66 percent saying that COVID-19 has forced them to take a closer look at their mental health.
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Texas State University student wearing Hi, How Are You Project mask. (Photo: Business Wire)
The Hi, How Are You Project and American Campus Communities (NYSE: ACC) released the survey’s report today to help raise awareness about the importance of mental wellness ahead of World Mental Health Day on Saturday, October 10. The two organizations have been partnering since 2018 to foster a culture of open dialogue at ACC’s more than 200 communities nationwide to help destigmatize any shame associated with mental health issues.
With more than 12,000 ACC resident responses from incoming freshmen to graduate students at 65 campuses across the U.S., the survey data provides a pulse of how students are feeling and what they are doing to maintain strong mental health and wellbeing given the dynamics of COVID-19. It is one of the largest surveys of its kind specifically targeting college students.
“Whether it’s remote learning or the fear of the unknowns of the virus, the data confirms that navigating the pandemic has definitely added another layer of stress and anxiety to college life,” said Dr. Sonia Krishna, a board certified physician specializing in Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatry and Hi, How Are You Project board member. “The good news is the survey results also reveal this generation clearly understands that their mental health is just as important as their physical health, and they are open to having dialogues to help themselves and others as well. Also, it is very encouraging to learn that three-fourths of students feel comfortable having mental health conversations and that they not only take the time to seek help for themselves but to also support others who may be faced with similar mental health issues.”
When stress and anxiety levels are high, most students turn to music
In comparison to previous years, 85 percent of college students are more stressed as a result of the global pandemic, according to the survey. When asked what they do specifically to relieve stress and anxiety, 84 percent of students say they choose to listen to or play music, followed by 78 percent saying they talk with friends and family on the phone/video chat, and 74 percent saying they watch TV or a favorite movie.
In celebration of music and art as a way to build community, Hi, How Are You Project will be hosting a free online music event on World Mental Health Day, October 10. Sponsored by ACC, the event will premiere at 7pm CST / 8pm EST on Qello Concerts by Stingray at qello.com/hhayp, to help raise awareness on the importance of having conversations around mental health. The program, hosted by Fantastic Negrito, can be watched at any time and will feature a mix of covers of the late world-renowned musician and visual artist Daniel Johnston, along with relevant original songs from a variety of artists including Jeff Tweedy, Lucius, Tunde Adebimpe, Bully, Kate Davis, Molly Burch, and Sabrina Ellis + Mobley. The event will also feature details about the survey data and information about how to seek support to maintain mental wellness during these stressful times and in the future.
With the majority of students saying they are stressed right now, more than half of them are worried they could be exposed to or contract the virus and nearly one-third say they are dissatisfied with remote learning, according to the survey. Krishna said these two findings could contribute to the stress and anxiety as factors in the overall current unconventional college environment.
Students feel comfortable opening up about mental wellness, caring for themselves and others
When asked who they feel comfortable with talking about the topic of mental health and wellbeing, 76 percent of the survey respondents prefer to talk with their close friends, 56 percent with family, and 48 percent with doctors or mental health experts not associated with the university. When asked if they feel comfortable having conversations to check in on other’s mental wellbeing, 78 percent confirm that they do.
Socializing and interacting in person is what students miss most right now
Socializing with friends and interacting with others in person is what students miss the most, according to 84 percent of survey respondents. However, they are embracing technology to stay connected with others and also to help maintain mental wellness. As for which activities students turn to so they can maintain strong mental health, 85 percent say staying connected with friends and family is important. Respondents heavily rely on texting, SnapChat or other social media platforms, and phone/video conversations.
Some students are not aware of organizations that provide support
While the majority of college students surveyed are currently taking a closer look at their mental health, 28 percent of them say they are not at all familiar with any organizations that promote health and wellbeing.
“We know that 75 percent of mental health issues begin by the age of 24, and college students fall right into that startling statistic. Therefore, it is so important for students to know that there are resources and people available to help,” said Lonnie Ledbetter, senior vice president of human resources, organizational development and culture at American Campus Communities. “We will continue to help direct our residents to credible university and community resources, cultivate effective partnerships with the universities we serve, and foster a culture of open dialogue to help destigmatize any shame associated with mental health issues.”
With learnings from the College Student Fall 2020 Mental Health Survey, ACC and the Hi, How Are You Project will further their partnership to promote mental health and wellbeing among ACC’s residents now during these dynamic times and well into the future. Custom-built peer-to-peer training will continue to equip ACC community assistants and other team members with the tools needed to plan stress-reducing activities, recognize warning signs, empower team members to start conversations, and provide resources related to mental health and wellness. The student housing leader and the mental health-focused nonprofit will also share the survey findings with university leadership and administrators around the U.S. with the goal to make an even greater impact of breaking down the stigma associated with mental health issues among college students.
To access the full report of the results from the College Student Fall 2020 Mental Wellness Report, please find it here.
About American Campus Communities
American Campus Communities, Inc. is the largest owner, manager and developer of high-quality student housing communities in the United States. The company is a fully integrated, self-managed and self-administered equity real estate investment trust (REIT) with expertise in the design, finance, development, construction management and operational management of student housing properties. As of June 30, 2020, American Campus Communities owned 166 student housing properties containing approximately 111,900 beds. Including its owned and third-party managed properties, ACC's total managed portfolio consisted of 201 properties with approximately 138,000 beds. Visit www.americancampus.com.
About Hi, How Are You? Project
The Hi How Are You (HHAY) Project was created to generate new conversation around mental wellbeing. The name and city-proclaimed HHAY Day were inspired by Austin’s love for the iconic mural painted by Daniel Johnston. On January 22nd (Johnston’s birthday), people everywhere are encouraged to check in on a neighbor, friend, co-worker, family member, or loved one and ask, “Hi, How Are You?” The Project, created with the support of the Johnston family, creates media, events, and peer-to-peer training programs that encourage open dialogue on mental wellbeing. Johnston is a world-renowned musician and visual artist despite his own struggles with mental illness. To learn more about how you can get involved or to donate, please visit www.hihowareyou.org.