In recent weeks, EMU’s social media handles have featured five faculty and staff sharing mental health support tips. Geared towards students, the posts have also been shared widely among faculty, staff and EMU friends.
From something as simple as getting your rest and staying hydrated to learning to say no and spending time with those who energize you, the tips are resonating with many in the campus community this fall. The campaign kicked off in the last week of October, continued through Election Week and will finish up next week, as students conclude their final days on campus and head home for winter break.
A summary of the ten tips is at the end of this article.
Here’s a bit more on this communications campaign, how it got started, and its goals with EMU’s social media manager Rebekah Budnikas.
Why this focus?
We know this semester has been particularly difficult for our students, whose lives have been upended in particularly dramatic ways by the pandemic, political and social divisions in our country, and the chaos of our recent political election.
We heard this firsthand in our Transitions classes for first-year students. Students were really encouraged in those classes to name what they were feeling and to be transparent as much as they were comfortable, to be honest about the challenges of this semester. They talked about this and our Transitions instructors relayed this.
From the first weeks of the semester, Student Life, Residence Life and Health Services have been very focused on supporting students in different ways, from quaranteams to the “fall pause day,” various activities planned by Campus Activities Council, and different student-led worship opportunities.
An example of that extra focus is simply the huge effort put into care for our students around Election Week. There were 11 different spaces, in different formats — our Dean of Students Shannon Dycus calls them “brave spaces” — for students to process what was happening on campus and in the country with support from faculty and staff from around campus.
Why social media?
Keeping our students, and all of us at EMU safe this semester, has been a real community effort. We have some amazing student leaders who have helped, but I think all of our students have really modeled care and concern for each other. That collective effort is evident by our low number of cases, healthy student population, and all of the precautions we’ve taken within the campus community.
I think some of the success of our effort is the way we communicate with each other. Social media has been a really important way to relay information but also to show and build both support and supportive networks.
We wanted to use social media to talk openly about the importance of mental and emotional health this semester as part of broader communication efforts to help students who are overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, or just simply struggling with what is going on.
Allison Collazo, our director of counseling, shared with me in conversations around this social media campaign that it was important for students to hear from others recognition of both what they were feeling and how difficult it was for them.
We want our students to know that we are all here for them and we’re all supportive of what they’re going through. You’d expect our director of counseling to talk about mental health but it was also important for us to hear from others, too, across campus. So in addition to Allison and Shannon, our other speakers were Campus Pastor Brian Martin Burkholder, Head Baseball Coach Adam Posey, and Professor Laura Yoder, from our nursing department.
They were great on camera, and spoke from the heart. I think one of the reasons that the posts are being shared is their authenticity. Their care for students really shines through.
1. Be kind to yourself
2. Set boundaries
3. Take a break and limit exposure to stressors
4. Name what you are feeling
5. Stay hydrated and eat well
6. learn when to say no
7. Take time to rest (relax, nap, get 8 hours of sleep)
8. Spend time with those who energize you
9. You don’t have to answer the phone
10. Participate in grounding activities
With thanks to Allison Collazo, Director of Counseling