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Reducing Mental Health Stigma on College Campuses

College campuses are a melting pot of cultures and experiences. Students can hail from the same state as their school, or from across the world. Some are first-generation students and some have alumni in their family. Some live in dorms on campus while others may live in off-campus apartments. But among the differences, one statistic stands out for higher education students: 60% of college students meet the criteria for at least one mental health challenge.

And though college campuses offer counseling that can help, there’s more that faculty, staff and peers can do to support one another.

Rachel Taube, M.S.W., a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) National Trainer, has worked on several college campuses. She says she’s proud of how the higher education community has embraced the conversation around mental health and substance use challenges, but acknowledges that stigma around the topic still exists.

Taube says MHFA for Higher Education, a course developed by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, “does a great job of acknowledging the shared aspects of culture across campuses and the unique experiences individuals may have based on their own experiences. MHFA for Higher Education has the unique opportunity to truly shift culture on a campus. When we come together as a campus community — around a shared language and clear plan of action to support the members of our campus community — we can make a tremendous impact.”

MHFA for Higher Education uses real-life scenarios designed for faculty, staff and students to teach how to identify and respond to signs of mental health and substance use challenges. It stresses the relevance of mental wellbeing to college communities and shares national, campus and community resources. And though the course is designed for faculty, administrators and other staff to support students, Taube points out how the course may inadvertently benefit learners, too.

“Having worked on several college campuses, I know stigmas still exist in higher education,” she said. “We need to continue working to meet the needs of our campus community members. As a staff member on campus, I know there can be a false perception that taking a MHFA course is training [faculty and staff] to help students. But it’s critical to recognize the mental health needs of staff and faculty. While we may often be the First Aider and provide support to a student, it’s also just as possible that we may be the ones in need of the support.”

MHFA for Higher Education training is intended for institutions of higher learning, but the lessons it teaches reach beyond college. Both students and staff benefit from discussing the signs and symptoms of mental health challenges, how to offer support and what self-care can look like.

Interested in taking MHFA for Higher Education? Find a course and register to become certified in Mental Health First Aid.



Abrams, Z. (2022). Student mental health is in crisis. Campuses are rethinking their approach. Monitor on Psychology. 53(10), 60.

Mental Health First Aid. (2020). Mental Health First Aid USA. National Council for Behavioral Health d/b/a National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

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