Jennifer Yruegas of Pacific University on Promoting Mental Health Awareness in Higher Education

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Jennifer Yruegas


Jennifer Yruegas, as the Dean at Pacific University College of Business, has demonstrated remarkable success in enhancing MBA enrollment, while also equipping students with the essential skills and knowledge required to excel in the competitive business world. In the following article, Jennifer Yruegas delves into the significance of cultivating mental health awareness in higher education settings, with strategies for promoting mental wellness and reducing stigma among students.

There has been a growing recognition of the importance of addressing mental health issues among college and university students. Jennifer Yruegas explains that the transition to higher education can be a challenging time, marked by academic pressures, social adjustments, and newfound independence. As such, integrating mental health education and support services into higher education institutions has become imperative to promote student well-being and academic success.

Jennifer Yruegas on the Prevalence of Mental Health Issues in Higher Education

The first step in addressing mental health concerns in higher education is to acknowledge the prevalence of such issues among college and university students. Research indicates that a significant proportion of students experience mental health challenges during their academic journey, including anxiety, depression, stress, and suicidal ideation.

Jennifer Yruegas says that factors such as academic pressure, financial stress, social isolation, and the stigma associated with seeking help can exacerbate these issues, leading to adverse outcomes for students’ well-being and academic performance.

Mental Health Awareness

Importance of Integrating Mental Health Education and Support Services

Integrating mental health education and support services into academia is essential to provide students with the resources and support they need to thrive. By incorporating mental health awareness initiatives, colleges and universities can equip students with the knowledge and skills to recognize signs of distress, manage stress effectively, and seek help when needed. Additionally, offering accessible and confidential support services, such as counseling, therapy, and crisis intervention, ensures that students have access to professional assistance when facing mental health challenges.

Strategies for Promoting Mental Wellness

Jennifer Yruegas, Pacific University College of Business notes that there are various strategies that academic institutions can employ to promote mental wellness among students. These include:

Implementing Mental Health Education Programs: It’s important to integrate mental health education into orientation programs, academic courses, and extracurricular activities to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and promote help-seeking behaviors among students. Within the College of Business at Pacific University, students consistently receive reminders about available support services, alongside frequent check-ins to ensure their well-being and academic progress.

Providing Accessible Counseling Services: Jennifer Yruegas says universities should offer on and off campus counseling services staffed by qualified mental health professionals who can provide individual therapy, group counseling, crisis intervention, and referral services as needed. Ensure that counseling services are confidential, culturally sensitive, and easily accessible to all students.

Establishing Peer Support Programs: Create peer support programs where trained student volunteers provide non-judgmental listening, emotional support, and resource referrals to their peers. Peer support programs foster a sense of community, reduce isolation, and encourage open discussions about mental health.

Offering Wellness Workshops and Events: Organize wellness workshops, seminars, and events focused on topics such as stress management, mindfulness, self-care, and resilience-building. A notably effective program has been Mental Health First Aid provided by the organization To Say I Am.  Jennifer Yruegas, Pacific University College of Business highlights that these events can provide students with practical tools and strategies for enhancing their mental well-being and coping with academic and personal challenges.

Mental Health Stigma

Integrating Technology-Based Solutions: Leverage technology to provide students with access to mental health resources and support services. Additionally, mobile apps, online self-help tools, and virtual support groups that offer information, guidance, and interactive exercises to promote mental wellness and resilience can be extremely helpful.

Reducing Stigma Surrounding Mental Health

Jennifer Yruegas says that one of the most significant barriers to seeking help for mental health issues is the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness. To combat stigma in higher education settings, colleges and universities can:

Promote Open Dialogue: Encourage open discussions about mental health, mental illness, and the importance of seeking help among students, faculty, and staff. Foster a supportive campus culture where individuals feel comfortable sharing their experiences and seeking support without fear of judgment or stigma.

Educate the Community: Jennifer Yruegas also suggests providing education and training sessions on mental health awareness, stigma reduction, and supportive communication strategies for students, faculty, and staff. Empower members of the campus community to recognize and challenge stigma, advocate for mental health resources, and support peers in distress.

Share Personal Stories: Highlight personal stories of resilience and recovery from mental illness to humanize the experiences of individuals living with mental health conditions. Organize storytelling events, guest speaker presentations, and multimedia campaigns that showcase diverse narratives and perspectives on mental health.

Foster Inclusive Language: Promote the use of inclusive and respectful language when discussing mental health issues to avoid perpetuating stereotypes and negative attitudes. Encourage the use of person-first language that emphasizes individuals’ strengths and abilities rather than their diagnoses or symptoms.

Conclusion

Jennifer Yruegas, Pacific University College of Business says that cultivating mental health awareness in higher education is essential for promoting student well-being, academic success, and overall campus thriving. By integrating mental health education and support services into college and university settings and reducing stigma surrounding mental illness, higher education institutions can create a supportive and inclusive environment where students feel empowered to seek help, build resilience, and thrive personally and academically. By prioritizing mental health initiatives and fostering a culture of care, higher education institutions play a crucial role in nurturing the holistic well-being of their student communities.