Student Resilience and Healthy Coping are Key to Student Well-being

Adolescent mental health is a real problem that impacts the lives of thousands of students across the country. One out of every four college student suffers from a form of mental illness, and 30 percent of college students report feeling "so depressed that it was difficult to function" at some time in the past year (ACHA, 2011).

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens and young adults between the ages of 15-24 and the second leading cause of death for college students. These statistics are alarming and the reason I have dedicated much of my career to developing programs that can support the complex needs of middle school, high school and college students.

The college environment can be a challenging place, full of distractions and stressful events. In addition, student populations are growing and changing, and these factors introduce new issues, needs and stressors. Students leave behind the comfort and support of their families and friends, and the familiarity of home, to live and learn with hundreds of strangers. Students are faced with the challenge of adaptability and adjustment to manage the stressors of this significant life transition. 

Research suggests that while these factors may make students vulnerable and more at-risk to leaving school before degree attainment, some students employ an innate coping mechanism that gives them the resilience necessary to experience academic success. Resilient students may experience the same stressful experiences as less-resilient students, however, they have protective mechanisms in place to deal with these difficulties and thrive.

As part of this, it’s important that higher education institutions implement programs that enhance the protective factors that educate students about emotional well-being, coping and positive help-seeking behavior. By providing universal psychoeducation, students will be better equipped to seek help early as well as help their peers through difficult experiences. 

NASPA’s CU Thrive program is an excellent resource to help schools address this very need.  CU Thrive is an online program built specifically for college students to help them explore, understand, and share their unique college experiences. The CU Thrive website is available to students 24/7 and provides hundreds of articles, Q&As, student stories, and other resources on ALL topics related to their student life experience.  Students can learn about depression, study management tips, buying a car, managing debt, improving their relationships, and even resolving roommate conflicts. The list of valuable topics is broad and constantly expanding. Whatever the need, CU Thrive aims to provide a reliable resource that has been both reviewed and approved by NASPA and other academic and wellness professionals.

Based on a student feedback survey (2014) CU Thrive has proved to be an extremely valuable tool for supporting students mental health needs on campus. 

“[CU Thrive] is the best resource I have found with information about having a mental illness while in college and helping be able to create a healthy balance.”

“[CU Thrive] has helped me with managing my anxiety.”

“[CU Thrive] helped me realize I was not alone.”

“I had a friend who was dealing with panic attacks so that help me cope a lot.”

“I suffer with suicidal ideation and finding mental health resources was helpful.”

“[CU Thrive] has provided me with resources to give to others who are going through difficult times, while also being a good self-help/stress-relief destination for my own mental well-being.”

“Yes, my cousin came to school this semester and I didn't know how to help her adjust. Thanks to CU Thrive, I was able to support her through her rough adjustment.”

“[CU Thrive] helped me by letting them know where to go on campus to find help.”

"[CU Thrive] made me aware of mental health resources around my campus that I could share with others.”

“My friend with an eating disorder was able to access important and helpful nutritional information and became aware of campus resources.”

The power of these students’ words is hard to deny. NASPA’s CU Thrive resource is making a difference in students’ lives across the country, helping them healthily cope with the challenges they face and providing them the knowledge and skills they need to thrive!

For more information about NASPA’s CU Thrive program and the ways it can support your school’s existing student engagement, wellness and retention programs, please contact Mike Norris

About the Author:
Delvina Miremadi currently serves as the Director of Research and Program Development at Life Advantages LLC and has over eight years of experience specializing in resilience education and program development. Dr. Miremadi is currently directing and developing innovative resilience programs for colleges and universities, including NASPA’s CU Thrive and the Realize Your Resilience Toolkit and Resilience Assessment , designed specifically for college students. Prior to her involvement with Life Advantages, Dr. Miremadi worked for Children’s Hospital of Boston’s Department of Psychiatry, developing innovative prevention tools and curriculum for the Swensrud Depression Prevention Initiative. Dr. Miremadi earned her Ph.D. in Education Leadership at Simmons College, focusing her research on academic resilience in higher education. She received her Ed.M from Harvard University in Human Development and Psychology, where she conducted research at Harvard's Laboratory for Clinical and Developmental Research. Her expertise and passion lie in the creation and implementation of health promotion and prevention programs that address student issues, including mental health, degree attainment, and various everyday wellness needs. Dr. Miremadi’s research interests include resilience, particularly in understanding how resilience can be taught through educational approaches to help at-risk students engage in healthy coping and thrive across their lifespan.