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Resilience Training May Help Address Increasing Student Mental Health Crisis

3 years, 8 months ago

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Posted on Aug 03, 2020, 8 p.m.

A study recently published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry from Yale University demonstrates the powerful mental health benefits of resilience training such as meditation and breathing exercises in a study focused on the outcomes of 3 classroom based wellness training programs that incorporated resilience strategies. 

College students that were taught specific techniques for managing stress and anxiety experienced their perceived sense of well being dramatically improve. The most effective program was found to help the students in 6 specific areas related to mental health, including a better sense of social connectedness and reduced feelings of depression. The researchers suggest that resilience training programs could be of great help as a tool for addressing the mental health crisis on university campuses. 

“In addition to academic skills, we need to teach students how to live a balanced life,” said lead author Emma Seppälä, who is the faculty director of the Women’s Leadership Program At Yale School of Management. “Student mental health has been on the decline over the last 10 years, and with the pandemic and racial tensions, things have only gotten worse.”

The researchers evaluated 3 training programs that involved 135 Yale undergraduate students over the course of 8 weeks for a total of 30 hours; outcomes were compared to the self reported well being of a control group that did not engage in resilience training. The SKY Campus Happiness program was revealed to be the most beneficial to mental health; this program is centered around meditative breathing techniques and it incorporates yoga postures, social connections, as well as service activities. 

After completing 6 SKY sessions the students reported improvements in 6 areas of well being depression, stress, mental health, mindfulness, positive affect, and social connectedness. The second program, Foundations of Emotional Intelligence, was found to boost student ability to enjoy the moment through greater mindfulness, and the third program, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, yielded no significant improvements. 

There has been an increasing demand for mental health services on college campuses in recent years, which is largely due to an increase in anxiety and depression with the number of students seeking counseling climbing by 30% from 2009 to 2014, and 57% of counseling center directors reporting that their resources are insufficient to meet student needs. 

“Students learn tools they can use for the rest of their lives to continue to improve and maintain their mental health,” said study co-first author Christina Bradley. 

Continually adding staff to counseling and psychiatric services to meet demand is not financially sustainable – and universities are realizing this,” said Seppälä. “Evidence-based resiliency programs can help students help themselves.

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