FAUW recognizes the key role that faculty play in student wellness. Instructors themselves often recognize students in distress or are alerted by concerned teaching assistants. Whether communicating with troubled students directly or making referral decisions, faculty are better prepared if they have a) context-appropriate training in mental health and b) clear communication pathways to follow when they have concerns about students.
FAUW is pleased to see these points captured by recommendations 17 and 22 of the PAC-SMH Report. Here’s what we like about those recommendations and how we’d like to see them implemented.
- Ensure that faculty have appropriate and timely information to support students, through the following means:
- Make mental health training part of the onboarding process for new faculty.
- Strongly encourage mental health training in existing faculty.
- Provide clear guidelines to instructors regarding who they can contact when they have concerns about a student’s welfare, even if he or she does not yet require interventions.
- Implement a comprehensive education and training strategy to increase mental health literacy among students, staff, and faculty. Create situational mental health training based on role and/or faculty and make it available to all.
- Ensure all staff and faculty are aware of the supports for students that already exist both on campus and off campus and what to do in case of an emergency or when they suspect a student is in need of additional support.
What we’d like to see
Voluntary, not mandatory, training
FAUW encourages all faculty to invest in their personal development as student-facing employees by participating in mental health support training. We look forward to seeing this training made regularly available. We strongly believe that high-quality voluntary training will be more effective than low-quality, mandatory training that might breed resentment rather than empathy.
Optimal timing for new faculty training
We agree that new faculty should be provided with mental health support training as part of the onboarding process and suggest that timing be carefully considered. Rather than adding to the information load in their first few weeks or months, this training should occur closer to the time new faculty will be interacting with students.
Situational group training for entire units
To help our members support students, FAUW strongly supports the recommendation that the University develop situational mental health training, adapted with respect to specific units and/or roles. We’ve heard from members that they have found, or would find, this kind of context-specific training particularly helpful.
We believe that training a unit’s front-line faculty and staff simultaneously will make it clear that student mental health is a team effort—and will bring that team together to clearly define the referral pathways within that unit.
Clear lines of support in each unit
Every instructor should know an adequately trained staff or faculty member in their unit to whom they can refer troubled students.
FAUW recognizes that developing the networks to better support student mental health on our campus will require creating new resources and increasing our capacity to deliver them. We look forward to providing member-driven input on how the above recommendations are implemented and are committed to doing our part to inform our members about the resources available on campus.