COVID-19 Mental Health Toolkit

The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education created the Suicide Prevention and Student Mental Health Taskforce in 2015 in response to the growing awareness of college student mental health struggles. OCHE also sought to demonstrate its commitment to the mental health and well-being of all students in the Montana University System. The dedicated mental health and Student Affairs professionals on the Task Force developed and implemented recommendations that can be found here. Since that time, the Task Force has continued the important work of addressing student mental health, promoting well-being, and educating students about prevention strategies and services available to them.  College is an exciting time for students, but it can also be challenging and stressful.

As the entire world has grappled with the impact of COVID-19 and the resulting social isolation and anxiety, the Task Force has shifted its focus to developing a Toolkit for students, administrators, faculty, and counseling staff throughout the MUS. College students have been affected in many ways by the pandemic including: financial stress, housing uncertainty, concerns for their own and others’ safety/security, academic challenges, psychological impacts, and others.

The Toolkit is not exhaustive but serves as a starting point to connect campus constituents with useful information specific to college students. The MUS campuses have prepared to welcome students back this fall and made changes to typical processes to adjust to the new environment. Many administrators and faculty are concerned for their students’ welfare and how to best support them. Resources in the Toolkit offer suggestions on how to identify students who may be in distress, ways to encourage students to care for themselves, and general self-care ideas that are helpful to us all right now. University counseling staff will find important resources related to best practices for providing telemental health services during Covid-19 and responding to student mental health needs during the pandemic. Students will find information and links to campus-specific trainings and general resources to support their mental health as they return to school.

Finally, the Task Force recognizes the impact of ongoing racial inequities in our country which have been exposed more broadly through the pandemic. Our communities are called to take action to make systemic and policy changes, while also grappling with the pain of ongoing inequities. The Toolkit offers resources for coping with racial trauma as we continue to consider ways to support our BIPOC students and enact change.

Our goal is for the toolkit to provide important resources to inform best practices, policy, and guidance on navigating this challenging time of COVID-19. My hope is that we each continue to take care of our own mental well-being and demonstrate compassion for ourselves and others. We are all in this together and can support each other through these challenging and unpredictable times. I invite you to explore the resources we created and compiled, and hope you find them helpful.

Warm regards,