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Survey Reveals Increased Demand for Online Student Mental Health Support

The results of a new survey reveal that an “overwhelming majority” of higher-education faculty, staff, and administrators have seen an increased need for mental health support among online students, according to a news release. The poll from the Online Learning Consortium and teletherapy provider Uwill also hinted at a lack of services geared toward online students.

“More students are taking online courses than at any time in our history. At the same time, a deepening crisis of student mental health and an epidemic of digital isolation and loneliness are creating challenges that affect online learners in unique and profound ways,” said Uwill CEO and founder Michael London. “This data adds to our understanding of how mental health challenges manifest in the online environment—and the role that online faculty and staff play as first responders. We hope the findings shed new light on the issue as online programs work to center mental health and well-being in the online experience.”

Among the 338 teachers, administrators, and staff who responded, 71.75% said that online students “occasionally, frequently, or very frequently” contact them regarding mental-health concerns. More than half (54.79%) discussed a lack of services tailored to online students. State licensing restrictions can often mean that on-site counseling is limited or unavailable to students in a different state of residence. Most on-site counseling is also available during business hours, when online students are likely to be working full- or part-time, according to the news release.

About a third (37.44%) of respondents said that, as they increasingly become first responders for student mental-health concerns, they feel “inadequately or very inadequately trained” to recognize or respond to student needs. A large majority (83.25%) expressed interest in receiving additional training. They also named factors like time constraints, limited awareness of services, lack of tailored services, financial constraints, and lack of services in general as barriers between online students and adequate mental health coverage.

“To make good on the full promise of online education, we must recognize and address the profound intersection between mental health and student success,” said Jennifer Mathes, OLC’s Chief Executive Officer. “Even with the rising incidence of serious mental health challenges, online faculty and staff clearly can play a critical role in building thriving online student communities that prioritize and support mental health and well-being.”

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. He can be reached at [email protected].

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